“Stay away from exterior windows,” read an alarming alert from the US Capitol Police. After months of President Donald Trump falsely claiming that victory in last fall’s presidential election had been stolen from him, his supporters rode into Washington, DC, Wednesday to attempt a rescue. After rushing a police line outside the Capitol Building, a ragtag group of marauders bearing a Confederate flag and pro-Trump swag made it inside.
Reporters tweeted that police had guns drawn in the House chamber. “People are smashing glass in the doors to the House chamber,” Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari tweeted. “I just had to evacuate my office because of a pipe bomb reported outside,” Rep. Elaine Luria, a Virginia Democrat, tweeted. “This is Wild,” HuffPost’s Philip Lewis wrote, sharing a video that appeared to show angry Trump supporters charging police, calling them “traitors.”
Protesters have breached the Capitol. They’re outside the Senate chamber pic.twitter.com/I021tKliUD
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021
Congress was meeting to certify the votes of the Electoral College: President-elect Joe Biden with 306 votes, Trump 232. Leading up to the vote, several Republican senators and representatives had pledged to object to the Electoral College votes from some of the states Biden won last November. Although Republican leaders let Trump’s questioning of the election linger for weeks before acknowledging Biden’s victory, by Wednesday, some had had enough.
Trump’s team has failed in court and during state-level recounts to reverse the election results, despite the president’s ceaseless allegations of fraud, dead voters, and faulty voting machines. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, told his colleagues. McConnell, of course, waited six weeks after the election to acknowledge Biden as the winner.
McConnell’s call to certify the Electoral College vote without disruption had no apparent effect on the pro-Trump protesters who’d gathered in the nation’s capital. “I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
McConnell’s spiel certainly hadn’t won over the protester who climbed the Senate dais and yelled, according to HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic, “Trump won that election!” New York Post reporter Steven Nelson tweeted a photo of a shirtless man wearing a pioneer style coonskin cap who climbed to the dais and yelled, “Where’s Pence? Show yourself!”
Photo of Senate right now. 'Where's Pence, show yourself!' protester shouts pic.twitter.com/xGVKMnsf3T
— Steven Nelson (@stevennelson10) January 6, 2021
By 2:30 or so Eastern, lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence—who had announced he would follow the Constitution and not attempt to use his ceremonial role during the Electoral College certification to overturn his boss’s electoral loss—were being evacuated. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Washington, DC, would be under a curfew to start at 6 p.m. Lawmakers donned gas masks.
Trump, after firing off a tweet about Pence’s lack of courage, asked his supporters to remain peaceful. “WE are the Party of Law & Order,” he tweeted.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated as circumstances warrant.
The Bulletin elevates expert voices above the noise. But as an independent nonprofit organization, our operations depend on the support of readers like you. Help us continue to deliver quality journalism that holds leaders accountable. Your support of our work at any level is important. In return, we promise our coverage will be understandable, influential, vigilant, solution-oriented, and fair-minded. Together we can make a difference.