Protesters Loyal to Trump Storm Capitol, Disrupting Electoral College Certification
WASHINGTON – Protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon, forcing lawmakers, staff and journalists into hiding, and stunning the world in the process.
One woman was confirmed to have been shot and killed on the Capitol grounds.
Police described her as a “civilian” who appeared to be the same person shot in a video posted on Twitter. The circumstances indicated she was a protester.
The National Guard and state and federal police were called in to restore some semblance of order, and rare evening curfews were declared in the District of Columbia and nearby Virginia suburbs.
The mayhem ensued about fifteen minutes after a joint session of Congress convened to count the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election.
Right from the start, the event was highly unusual, with Vice President Mike Pence feeling he had to acknowledge that he does not have the power to throw out the electoral votes that will make Democrat Joe Biden the next president in two weeks.
Trump had claimed in a speech to many of the same protesters, that Pence somehow could find a way to keep him in office.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote in a letter to members of Congress before he gaveled in the joint session of Congress.
Lawmakers had just begun working their way through a roll call of the states’ electoral votes when a representative from Arizona objected to the state’s electors and how they were selected.
Under the rules of the Joint Session, such an objection dissolves the joint session and the Senate and House are then supposed to deliberate for two hours to decide whether those votes should stay or go.
House Republicans planned to object to the Electoral College vote from at least six states, meaning the session likely would have gone on all night.
The Senate had just exited the House chamber when the first of the protesters breached the Capitol itself. As Capitol police responded with guns drawn, those legitimately in the building were told to shelter in place.
It has been reported that substantial damage was caused inside the historic building and that protesters even made it inside and trashed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Outside a crowd that was estimated by the media at around 30,000 at its peak surged forward toward the Capitol from the National Mall. They cheered as several dozen fellow Trump supporters scaled and occupied the newly erected inaugural platform.
Trump himself urged the crowd to march to the Capitol during a rambling speech that lasted more than an hour on the Ellipse outside the White House earlier the same afternoon. He repeated his unsubstantiated claims about being robbed of the election.
“We will never give up, we will never concede,” Trump told the crowd.
Regarding President-elect Biden, he said, “We’re going to have somebody in there who should not be in there and our country will be destroyed. And we’re not going to stand for that.”
Over the course of the afternoon, police lodged sporadic flash bang grenades into the crowd of protesters and set off tear gas to disperse them. They shouted back by calling the police “Traitors.”
Though the majority of the crowd was peaceful, preferring to chant and yell their displeasure at the lawmakers inside, several demonstrators could be heard talking about the likelihood of a “another Civil War” and “tearing the Capitol down.”
Over the course of the afternoon, sporadic gun fire could be heard and canisters of what appeared to be tear gas were set off, though it was unclear where they came from.
Some protesters spoke with The Well News before the violence erupted.
Larry Patten, a 61-year-old toolmaker from Dannebrog, Neb., said he was joining the protest “because I’m tired of the corruption, evident corruption throughout the whole government.”
He added, “We’re protesting the corruption in the election.”
Michael Peters, a 61-year-old self-employed home restorer from Fort Myers, Fla., invoked Benjamin Franklin’s statement to a bystander outside Independence Hall during the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
The bystander asked Franklin what kind of government the delegates were organizing for the United States. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Peters said he came to Washington on Wednesday, “to send a message to the Congress, we’ve come to keep our republic.”
As the protest turned violent at the Capitol building, Trump was mostly silent on what was happening just down the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
After the protest got out of hand, Trump was mostly mum on what was happening just down the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Trump and urged him to tell the protesters to stand down.
Trump responded with a minute-long taped video in which he told demonstrators massed around the Capitol that they were “very special people,” that he backed their cause, but that they should “go home in peace.”
Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, spoke with senior defense leaders about calling in the National Guard. Guardsmen joined police in enforcing the District of Columbia’s curfew.
President-elect Biden, two weeks away from being inaugurated on the now desecrated platform, had declared in Wilmington, Delaware: “I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
Biden said that democracy was “under unprecedented assault,” a sentiment echoed by many in Congress, including some Republicans.
Former President George W. Bush said in a statement, “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”
Without actually naming Trump, he said the assault on the Capitol “was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation.”
The sergeant-at-arms, the top security official at the Capitol, announced that the building had been secured shortly before 6 p.m.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers will get back to the business of counting and officially certifying the Electoral College votes later tonight, as soon as the Capitol is confirmed clear of protesters and other hazards.
The joint session reconvened shortly after 8 p.m.
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