President Trump implored ardent supporters at a rally Wednesday behind the White House to walk to the Capitol Building and "show strength" and "fight." Many of them have, and they stormed the building, vandalized it, and breached its entrances— with Senators and members of the House going into recess as during the proceeding to certify the election for Joe Biden.
An unknown number of Trump and "Don't Tread on Me" flag-waving supporters, some of them masked, marched up to the entrances of the Capitol building Wednesday just after 2:10 p.m. Eastern Time, in the midst of formal certification proceedings happening simultaneously in the House and Senate chambers. While some Republican members of Congress had pledged to show their support for Trump's baseless claims about election fraud — in order to appease their Trump-loyalist constituents and not get voted out next election — the certification of the electoral college votes was expected to proceed without issue today.
Meanwhile, the White House had organized a surreal campaign rally of sorts, two weeks shy of the president leaving office, in which the president continued to air grievances and promote lies and conspiracy theories about the election — including the widely debunked idea that there were "205,000 more ballots than you had voters" in Pennsylvania.
A cohort of his supporters heeded a call to march to the Capitol, and footage posted to Twitter showed them attempting to enter the building. According to the New York Times,
They breached the Capitol pic.twitter.com/tWKxojW2Hr— Matt Laslo (@MattLaslo) January 6, 2021
You can hear the crowd roaring outside door. Now shattering the glass. Crazy pic.twitter.com/F3BDOuzCzF— John Bresnahan (@bresreports) January 6, 2021
"If any of the Capitol Police or staffers get hurt or worse because of the protesters outside the Capitol, Trump is going to face accusations that he incited a riot," says New York Times Washington correspondent Charlie Savage, as part of the paper's live coverage of today's events in Washington. "At the end of his speech, Trump told his supporters on the Mall that Republicans have been too nice, like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back, and now needed to 'fight much harder' against 'bad people.' He told them to walk to the Capitol and 'demand' that Congress 'confront this egregious assault on our democracy” (that is, his loss to Biden), and kept exhorting them that 'you have to show strength and you have to be strong' and 'you will never take back our country with weakness.'"
Savage added, parenthetically, "([Trump's] defense will be that amid all that militancy, he also used the adverb 'peacefully' once.)"
Here's footage of Trump supporters brawling with police and pepper-sraying back at them at the rally site:
MAGA protesters are spraying pepper spray back at police on Capitol Hill pic.twitter.com/9TeqRefjZq— Tyler Kingkade (@tylerkingkade) January 6, 2021
New York Times reporter Adam Goldman said he was at the foot of the Capitol steps when he witnessed some violence between Capitol police and protesters. "He said that police fired flash bangs to try to deter protesters, but that failed and the protesters became increasingly agitated," relays Washington correspondent Michael S. Smith. "'Don’t tell us what to do,' one yelled. 'We pay for this,' another said. Protesters at the western side of the Capitol whom police had tried to push back moved on to another side of the building where they made their way far closer to it, ignoring police orders to stop."
The Senate and House immediately went into recess around 2:15 p.m., and News Station managing Editor Matt Laslo tweets that he heard "Lock all doors if able...immediately seek shelter...remain quiet and await further direction" over the Capitol loud speakers.
CNN had footage of some MAGA hat-wearing white men wearing military gear wandering the Capitol building. And Getty Images has multiple crazy images from the breach, including protesters who got into the Senate chamber.
White House correspondent Maggie Haberman refers to this tweet from the president, posted at 2:24 p.m., as "pouring gasoline on the fire."
Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2021
The President later urged the protesters/terrorists to be "peaceful," but Vice-President Mike Pence has since come out with even stronger words saying that anyone doing damage or causing violence at the Capitol would be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Update 2:56 p.m. ET / 11:56 p.m. PT: Armed officers have been dispatched to secure the Capitol, and PBS New Hour had footage of Capitol police or military personnel taking protesters to the ground in hallway near the House chamber. Correspondent Lisa Des Jardins was escorted down to a basement tunnel out of the Capitol with gas mask-wearing members of Congress.
Reportedly, one or more protesters had gotten into the House chamber and had taken to the Speaker's lectern.
This is happening pic.twitter.com/MNDC2Nh1Cg— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021
Update 3:20 p.m. / 12:20 p.m. PT: There were reports of shots fired inside the Capitol, possibly inside the House chamber, and these were confirmed by Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. There are also reports of at least one person being taken out on a stretcher covered in blood. It's unclear if this was protester.
Images have emerged of federal agents or Capitol police with guns drawn inside the House chamber, aiming them apparently at protesters who had broken some glass behind a lectern.
LATEST: Federal Protective Service and the Secret Service are now being deployed to the Capitol building— Bloomberg (@business) January 6, 2021
Capitol police officers are shown here pointing their guns in the House Chamber https://t.co/LXUSDVxBPW pic.twitter.com/QHIQwpeM31
Update 3:35 p.m. ET/12:35 p.m. PT: PBS is reporting that the person shot was a protester, who was either shot in the chest, or the neck. Also, a protester has reportedly entered Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and is conducting his protest there.
The Governor of Virginia is reportedly sending in members of the Virginia National Guard to help secure the Capitol.
Update 4:00 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT: Tear gas has been deployed somewhere outside the Capitol, and some of the crowd has begun to dissipate from the Capitol steps. A crowd remains engaged in a confrontation with Capitol police at the main entrance, per PBS News Hour.
President-elect Biden is giving a speech to the country saying that today's actions represent "an unprecedented assault on our democracy."
"Let me be clear," he said, "the scenes at the Capitol do not represent America... This is not dissent, it's chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end, now."
He denounced Trump for "inciting" the chaos, and called on Trump to go on national television and "demand an end to this siege."
Update 4:20 p.m. ET/1:20 p.m. PT: Trump posted a recorded statement from the White House Rose Garden continuing to say that the "landslide" election was "stolen," but calling for "calm" among his supporters. Treasonous. Asshole.
Update 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT: The AP is reporting that an explosive device was found at or near the Capitol Building, and it is no longer a threat.
And the New York Times is (too late!) examining how the storming of the Capitol was discussed and semi-organized on social media.
Update 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT: The female demonstrator reported shot inside the Capitol has died. She was, as the New York Times reports, draped in a flag and attempting to climb "onto a small ledge next to a doorway inside the building" when the shooting appears to have occurred.
Top photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images