Unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy

4 dead, Congress evacuated, National Guard activated after pro-Trump rioters storm Capitol

08 January 2021
Unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy

Protesters climb a wall outside the Capitol on Wednesday during a rally in support of President Donald Trump.

News Desk :
The U.S. Capitol descended into chaos and violence Wednesday as hundreds of pro-Trump rioters swarmed the building, leaving four people dead and forcing the Senate to evacuate and Vice President Mike Pence to be ushered to safety.
The frenzied scene when rioters broke through barricades and forced Congress to evacuate parts of the building and abruptly pause a ceremonial event affirming that President-elect Joe Biden won the November election. In one dramatic moment, police officers drew guns as rioters tried to break into the House chamber, reports nbcnews.
Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress, could be seen rushing out of the Senate chamber amid the sounds of throngs of President Donald Trump's supporters who surrounded the Capitol. Pence and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Senate president pro tem, were taken to a secure location, a senator told NBC News.
A woman was fatally shot by U.S. Capitol Police and three other people died in "medical emergencies," Washington Police Chief Robert Contee said.
The doors of the Senate were closed and locked, and senators were told to stay away from the  area. The doors to the House were barricaded, and some lawmakers were seen praying. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 12-hour curfew in the city that began Wednesday evening. Twitter and other social media channels were flooded with images of protesters skirmishing with police officers, and there were multiple reports of rioting inside the Capitol as some rioters broke windows, battered down doors and postured in the Senate chamber.
Improvised explosive devices were found on the Capitol grounds, several law enforcement officials said. Officers were in the process of destroying the devices, and it was not clear whether they were functional. At least one was made of a small section of galvanized pipe.
The woman who was fatally shot by Capitol Police was Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego, family members told NBC San Diego.
Her brother-in-law, Justin Jackson, said in a statement to the station: "Ashli was both loyal as well as extremely passionate about what she believed in. She loved this country and felt honored to have served in our Armed Forces. Please keep her family in your thoughts and respect their privacy during this time."
Five weapons were recovered from the complex, and three arrests were made, D.C. police said. None of the people were residents of the District of Columbia. There were 12 arrests in the two days leading up to Wednesday.
Images from the clashes were rife with disturbing hate symbols: a photo of a noose that had been hung on the west side of the Capitol, protesters waving Confederate flags or using white power gestures.
Trump directed the National Guard to head to the Capitol, he said in a tweet, and U.S. Capitol Police requested additional support. The FBI was deployed, and the U.S. Marshals Service assisted, too.
As Bowser's 12-hour curfew went into effect, most of the protesters dispersed, but pro-Trump demonstrators were seen in videos on social media roaming the city's streets amid a heavy police presence.
Washington police announced several arrests related to the protests and about 50 curfew-violation arrests as of 10:30 p.m. The police department said that most of the arrestees were from out of state and that it was processing additional arrests.
Bowser said the city is working with federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute people who stormed the chambers of Congress.
All four living former presidents decried the rioting.
Former President George W. Bush condemned the violence in a statement and also indirectly criticized Trump and his supporters.
"It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic - not our democratic republic," he said. "I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement."
Bush said the passions of protesters were "inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes."
Former President Barack Obama excoriated Trump in a statement and denounced the violence, calling it "a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation."
"Right now, Republican leaders have a choice made clear in the desecrated chambers of democracy. They can continue down this road and keep stoking the raging fires," Obama said. "Or they can choose reality and take the first steps toward extinguishing the flames. They can choose America."
Former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement, "This is a national tragedy and is not who we are as a nation," while Bill Clinton tweeted, "The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, confirming on Fox News that shots had been fired inside the Capitol, called the mayhem "un-American" and said: "We can disagree, but we should not take it to this level. ... You do not do what is happening right now. People are being hurt. This is unacceptable."
Biden called on Trump to go on national television to "fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege."
"It's not protest. It's insurrection," he said. "The words of a president matter, no matter how good or bad it is."
The top Democrats in Congress echoed Biden's message: "We are calling on President Trump to demand that all protestors leave the U.S. Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a joint statement.
Pelosi, in another statement Wednesday, called the violence "a shameful assault" on democracy and vowed that both chambers would finish certifying Biden's win under heightened protection.
Congress reconvened late Wednesday evening, with members of both parties sharply rebuking the violence and vandalism of the chamber. Pence called it "a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol."
"To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today: You did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people's house," he said.
Former Attorney General William Barr, who was with Trump last summer as National Guard members sprayed tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters so the president could hold a Bible for a photo opportunity, admonished the rioters.
"The violence at the Capitol Building is outrageous and despicable. Federal agencies should move immediately to disperse it," he said.
Image: Capitol protesters
Dan Eberhart, a prominent donor to Trump and the Republican Party, also sharply criticized the protests and the president.
"If President Trump wants to have any kind of political future within the Republican Party, he needs to condemn the violence at the Capitol and stop claiming the election was stolen," Eberhart told NBC News. "President Trump had his day in court. It's time to concede defeat and think about his political future."
He added, "The desecration of the Capitol is not going to be forgotten. He cost Sen. [Mitch] McConnell his leadership position, and now he's s------g all over the Capitol."
Pence: 'This is still the people's house'
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the violence in a series of tweets and called for arrests and prosecution.

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