Right-Wing Protestors Storm The Capitol

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  • Police in riot gear in front of the Capitol. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

  • Protestors entering the Capitol. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

  • Protestor on the steps of the Capitol. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

A mob toting Confederate flags, Trump signs, and guns stormed the Capitol starting at 2:15 p.m. EST on Wednesday. Vice President Pence and members of both houses of Congress, who had gathered to confirm the election of President-elect Joe Biden, were evacuated to safety as far-right protesters crossed the police line and entered the Capitol building, exhorted by President Trump’s rejection of the election results at a speech early on Wednesday. The limited number of D.C. police, many of whom let protesters into the building, were quickly overwhelmed by the unmasked and violent mob. Shots were fired, and D.C. officials confirmed that one woman died. State capitals around the country have also experienced protests, including the Capitol Building in Santa Fe. 

The D.C. police’s response stood in sharp contrast to the use of excessive force during the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, in which National Guardsmen were deployed to guard buildings in cities like Portland and the nation’s capital. In the January 6 incident, however, the mob of Trump supporters was met with little police resistance, taking the floor of the Capitol building as well as dozens of offices, including that of Speaker Pelosi. One widely circulated video depicts several policemen opening gates for the protestors, though others show a few policemen trying to hold back the crowd. Rioters broke windows, issued threats from many of the offices, and stood proudly in the rostrum of the House chamber.

In the face of the attempted coup, the mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, issued a citywide 6 p.m. curfew. Requests from the mayor also prompted the activation of 1,100 troops from the District of Columbia National Guard as well as several F.B.I. units. The National Guard managed to retake the Capitol around 5:40 p.m., and multiple people have been taken into custody. Speaker Pelosi has vowed that the attack could not “deter us from our responsibility to validate the election.” Lawmakers returned later in the evening to continue counting electoral votes. Many of the lawmakers’ evening speeches included references to the day’s events at the Capitol building. Vice-President Pence has urged the members of Congress to “get back to work,” stating that “violence never wins.”

After a pipe bomb was found in the RNC headquarters, both the RNC building and the nearby DNC building were completely evacuated. The James Madison Memorial Building and the Cannon House Office Building, both near the Capitol, were also evacuated. 

In the early hours of the commotion, President Trump did nothing to dissuade the protesters, going as far as to tweet, “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide victory is so unceremoniously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly and unfairly treated for so long.” Twitter has since removed this and two other tweets from the president for “repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity Policy.” Twitter, which has blocked President Trump’s account for 12 hours, threatened to “permanently suspend” Trump’s account if there are future breaches of the use policy. This encouragement of the protesters was denounced by Republican lawmakers, including Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney. Following hours of violence, President Trump issued a tweet urging the militants to “go home,” adding that “we love you.” In response to Trump’s tweets and his encouragement of the mob, politicians from both sides of the aisle have encouraged Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which can be used to replace a sitting president incapable of fulfilling the requirements of the office. 

 As these events occurred nationwide, Democrats John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won key Senate races in Georgia, ensuring a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress.