At least four dead after Trump supporters ransack US Capitol
At least four people have been reported dead, according to latest reports, as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed US Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, overpowered security personnel to reach deep inside the building, forced lawmakers to shelter in place under desks and in rooms, and brought to a halt a key constitutional procedure that had just got under way to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
Clashes broke out between the insurrectionists and security personnel and several people were reported injured apart from the deaths. The injured include law enforcement personnel and dozens have been taken into custody.
They had been driven out of the building by late evening. But even though a nighttime curfew came into effect at 6pm, the mobs, though thinned down, continued to loiter around the complex, menacingly, hurling invectives at police.
“To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, and to threaten the safety of duly elected officials is not protest,” Biden said in remarks to the nation. “It is insurrection. The world is watching - and like so many other Americans, I am shocked and saddened that our nation, so long a beacon of light, hope, and democracy has come to such a dark moment.”
Former President George W Bush, a Republican, also slammed the mob action as an “insurrection”, as did other Republicans such as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Mitt Romney, also a 2012 presidential nominee.
Calls went up shortly for Trump to be impeached, even if there were just two more weeks left of his term, or be removed from office under the 25th Amendment of US constitution, which empowers the federal cabinet to sideline the president finding him unfit to govern.
Leading legal experts such as Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, told CNN that Trump had “engaged in inciting sedition”.
The world watched in horror as well. “Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington, DC. Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Disgraceful scenes in US Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a close Trump ally, tweeted.
Statements of shock and outrage flowed from capitals of other US allies and partners.
The rioters had marched to the Capitol from a rally nearby where Trump had railed against his election defeat, attributing it to fraud and cheating. And then he called on them to march on the Capitol, promising to walk with them.
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” Trump told his cheering supporters, referring to the certification process. “And we’re probably not going to be cheering, so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
But he did not walk with them. He went back to the White House to watch the mayhem on TV.
Men and women carrying Trump campaign flags and the national flag stormed the over 200-year-old Capitol, which was last breached in 1812 by the British in a war, overwhelming security personnel with their sheer numbers.
They made it to the well of the Senate and one of them posed for pictures sitting in the Senate president’s seat, which was occupied by Vice-President Pence just a while ago.
Another man went into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, took her seat and posed for pictures with his feet up on her desk. One of them left a note for her, “We will not back down.”
US congress had just started a joint session at the time to certify Biden’s election victory. And the two chambers had broken up to debate, separately under the rules, the first of the several objections Trump’s allies in congress had planned to raise against the certification.
They were soon sheltering in place as rioters took over the building, forcing back Capitol police, some of whom were seen posing for selfies with the rioters. The process resumed later in the evening after the complex had been cleared of Trump’s supporters.
Though shocked and outraged, leaders of both parties resolved to put forth a joint front to demonstrate they would not be intimidated and resumed the certification process later in the evening. They planned to continue the process as long as it would take, even if it meant going through the night.
As news of the insurrection spread, calls were issued for Trump, as the instigator and inciter, to intervene and call off his supporters. He ignored them for a while and then responded with an insipid tweet saying, “Stay peaceful.”
He posted another tweet and then, after a public appeal from Biden to “step up”, Trump posted a long message with a video, in which he reiterated his claim the election was stolen, appealed to the rioters to go home calling them patriots and saying he loved them.
Facebook took down that video and so did Twitter, which went a step further and locked the US president’s Twitter account for 12 hours.
“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video. We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence,” said Guy Rosen of Facebook.