‘It’s insurrection,’ Biden says, as Trump supporters storm US Capitol

One dead as building is declared secure after breach by protesters; Twitter locks Trump account

US president-elect Joe Biden requested "this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward." He urged Donald Trump to go on national television to demand "an end to the siege." Video: Reuters

 

The US Capitol was declared secure on Wednesday evening local time, about four hours after a mob of president Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the building.

The occupation interrupted Congress’s Electoral College count that will formalise president-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming inauguration on January 20th. Politicians were evacuated to secure locations around the Capitol complex after thousands of Trump supporters breached the building and skirmished with police officers.

After gaining entry to the building, protesters smashed windows, wandered halls and corridors and occupied offices. They stormed the offices of Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi, knocking over tables and ripping photos off the walls.

One protester occupied the Senate dais and yelled: “Trump won that election.”

A woman who was shot inside the US Capitol during the violent protest has died. The Metropolitan police department said it was taking the lead on the shooting investigation. Police did not immediately provide details about the circumstances of the shooting.

Ms Pelosi said on Wednesday that politicians would resume the count of electoral votes to confirm the November presidential election result once the US Capitol is cleared after the building was breached by the protesters.

She said that decision was made after consultations with fellow congressional leaders and calls to the Pentagon, justice department and vice-president Mike Pence. “We always knew this responsibility would take us into the night. The night may still be long but we are hopeful for a shorter agenda, but our purpose will be accomplished,” she said in a statement.

She vowed that the incident would not “deter us from our responsibility to validate the election of Joe Biden”.

Washington DC police chief Robert Contee, calling the violence “a riot”, said at least five weapons were recovered and at least 13 people arrested over the protests. Separately, an FBI spokeswoman said two explosive devices had been made safe.

Supporters of US president Donald Trump enter the US Capitol as smoke fills the corridor. Photograph: Saul Loeb / AFP
Supporters of US president Donald Trump enter the US Capitol as smoke fills the corridor. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP

The unrest prompted Washington mayor Muriel Bowser to declare a citywide curfew from 6pm on Wednesday to 6am on Thursday. The army was activating the entire District of Columbia National Guard in response to a request from the mayor, an army official also said Wednesday.

Twitter said later on Wednesday it had temporarily locked the account of Mr Trump for 12 hours over “repeated and severe violations” of the social media platform’s civic integrity rules, and threatened him with permanent suspension.

Twitter said it required the removal of Mr Trump’s tweets “as a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington, DC”.

It said if the tweets, in which the president pushed baseless claims about the election, were not removed then the account would remain locked, meaning the president would be unable to tweet from @realDonaldTrump.

Drawn guns

With drawn guns and teargas, police had sought to clear the US Capitol building of hundreds of protesters who stormed the building and sought to force Congress to undo Mr Trump’s loss in the presidential election amid the joint session to certify Mr Biden’s victory.

Members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate had to suspend deliberations as the pro-Trump protesters surged through the halls of Congress.

Protesters had overturned barricades and clashed with police as thousands descended on the Capitol grounds.

Tweet

Mr Biden said the activity of the protesters “borders on sedition”.

He said that for demonstrators to storm the Capitol, smash windows, occupy offices, invade the halls of Congress and threaten the safety of duly elected officials: “It’s not a protest, it’s insurrection.”

“I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward,” Mr Biden added, urging Mr Trump to go on national television to demand “an end to this siege”.

In a video posted to Twitter, Mr Trump repeated his false claims about election fraud but urged the protesters to leave.

“You have to go home now, we have to have peace,” he said.

Later he tweeted “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

Video showed protesters breaking windows and police deploying teargas inside the Capitol building.

Mr Pence, who had presided over the joint session of Congress, was among those evacuated from the Senate.

Members of militia groups and far-right groups, some in body armour, were seen mingling with the crowds outside the Capitol on Wednesday.

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Mr Trump, who before the presidential election refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost, addressed thousands of protesters, repeating unfounded claims that the contest was stolen from him due to widespread election fraud and irregularities.

Demonstrators outside the Capitol in Washington after protesters breached security and entered the building. Photograph:Jason Andrew/The New York Times
Demonstrators outside the Capitol in Washington after protesters breached security and entered the building. Photograph:Jason Andrew/The New York Times

During the joint session, politicians had been debating a last-ditch effort by pro-Trump politicians to challenge the results, an effort that was unlikely to succeed, with many Republicans opposed to it.

Critics had called the effort by the Republican politicians an attack on American democracy and the rule of law and an attempted legislative coup.

The top two Democrats in Congress, Ms Pelosi and senator Chuck Schumer, called on Mr Trump to demand that all the protesters leave the Capitol and its grounds immediately.

Amid the unrest at the Capitol, Capitol Police told politicians in the House chamber to take gas masks from beneath their seats and prepare to put them on. Officers at the front door of the House chamber had their guns drawn as someone attempted to enter the chamber.

Officers ordered people in the chamber to drop to the floor for their safety. Several hundred House members, staff and press were evacuated to an undisclosed location and were told not to leave.

Election officials of both parties and independent observers have said there was no significant fraud in the November 3rd contest, which Mr Biden won by more than 7 million votes in the national popular vote.

Weeks have passed since the states completed certifying that Mr Biden, a Democrat, won the election by 306 Electoral College votes to Mr Trump’s 232. Mr Trump’s extraordinary challenges to Mr Biden’s victory have been rejected by courts across the country.

‘We will not take it’

Mr Trump had pressed Mr Pence to throw out election results in states the president narrowly lost, though Mr Pence has no authority to do so. Mr Pence had rebuffed Mr Trump’s demand.

The certification in Congress, normally a formality, had been expected to stretch for several hours as some Republican politicians mounted the effort to reject some state tallies, starting with Arizona.

Demonstrators breaches barricades to enter the U.S. Capitol during a protest at the Ellipse in Washington. Photograph: Ting Shen/Bloomberg
Demonstrators breach barricades to enter the US Capitol during a protest in Washington. Photograph: Ting Shen/Bloomberg

Republicans and Democrats both called on protesters to stand down.

“This is un-American and this has to stop,” said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, a Trump ally who supported the Republican effort to challenge the election results.

“Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more,” Mr Trump said at the rally earlier on Wednesday.

“We will never give up,” Mr Trump told thousands of cheering supporters on a grassy expanse near the White House called the Ellipse. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”

“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our constitution and the good of our country. And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you,” Mr Trump said.

In a statement, Mr Pence said that is not correct that he should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally.

The US constitution does not give Mr Pence the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the election.

International reaction

The protests drew international condemnation, with German foreign minister Heiko Maas saying democracy’s enemies would be cheered by scenes of violence at the US Capitol.

“Trump and his supporters must accept the decision of American voters at last and stop trampling on democracy,” Mr Maas said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney described the scenes in Washington as “shocking and deeply sad”. “We must call this out for what it is: a deliberate assault on Democracy by a sitting President & his supporters, attempting to overturn a free & fair election! The world is watching! We hope for restoration of calm,” he tweeted.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The Irish people have a deep connection with the United States of America, built up over many generations. I know that many, like me, will be watching the scenes unfolding in Washington DC with great concern and dismay.” –Reuters/AP/PA/Bloomberg