As congress met to count the Electoral College votes on January 6, hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol, forcing a lockdown in a scene that left five dead, dozens arrested and the FBI searching for more suspects.
The protesters stood on the Capitol building steps, waving a mixture of Donald Trump, U.S. and even confederate flags, before eventually breaking into the building itself. Several of the rioters made their way to Congress member offices and even the Congress chambers.
Videos from people on the ground showed a rioter, later identified as Ashli Babbit of San Diego, Calif., being shot by a Capitol police officer after she apparently approached the doors leading to the Senate chamber. Other images showed rioters sitting on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk and walking away with the House Speaker’s podium.
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— Jayden X (@realjaydenx) January 7, 2021
Within the crowd of thousands of people, the FBI responded to a suspected bomb threat after “home made bombs” were found by a trash can near the Republican National Committee headquarters.
Congress members were rushed out of the Capitol chambers before any of the rioters made their way to them.
“I am safe, but heartbroken about what we are enduring at our nation’s Capitol,” Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted out in the midst of the breach. “Running for our lives as Members of Congress in the United States is really devastating and totally shocking.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer made a joint statement saying, “We are calling on President Trump to demand that all of the protesters leave the U.S. Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately.”
President-elect Joe Biden condemned the “mob,” and Senator Marco Rubio condemned the violence through his Twitter account, saying, “There is nothing patriotic about what is occurring on Capitol Hill. This is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy.”
President Trump did not immediately ask the rioters to disengage, but eventually tweeted out, “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
As the crowds were moved out of the building, Congress met to count the votes and ultimately affirm Joe Biden’s victory.
Since the November 3 presidential elections ended, President Trump has questioned the election results, claiming voter fraud took place, despite judges across the country and even the Supreme Court dismissing all claims.
Aside from Trump’s one hour speech at the “Save America Rally” that day, the president showed public disapproval of Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to not overturn the presidential election results that saw president-elect Joe Biden as the victor.
TRUMP’S “SAVE AMERICA RALLY”
That morning, before Congress met, President Donald Trump held a “Save America” rally in Downtown Washington D.C., where he spoke to nearly 30,000 people and encouraged them to march down to the Capitol “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
While words of a “peaceful protest” may have come out of Trump’s mouth, several of his supporters took a different approach, fighting with police officers, storming the Capitol, breaking in, and looting and destroying several rooms within.
Weeks before the attack on the Capitol, digital flyers circulated on social media platforms for an event called “Operation Occupy the Capitol.” Using the hashtags #occupycapitols and #wearethestorm, the event was communicated throughout the country to protest the capitols in all 50 states. While demonstrations occurred in different states, including California, none escalated to the level of violence and destruction in the U.S. Capitol.
The social media-led movement caused both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store to suspend a communication app called “Parler,” as they felt the app was a key contributor to communicating the Capitol attacks.
“We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity,” Apple told technology website Tech Crunch in a statement.
After the Capitol siege, other prominent social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook suspended President Trump’s accounts and have removed user posts that mention the phrase “stop the steal,” one of Trump’s slogans after losing the election.
Washington, D.C. enacted a 6 p.m. EST curfew, with the Washington National Guard being mobilized to control the crowd. Virginia, Maryland and Georgia also sent National Guard assistance to the U.S. Capitol, as the crowd eventually dispersed, but not before clashes with law enforcement.
After the riots went on for about three hours, the president spoke, telling his supporters in the Capitol, “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt… but you have to go home now. We have to have peace, we have to have law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt. Go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
The violence at the Capitol reverberated throughout the country, including California, with Gov. Gavin Newsom saying:
“Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions. The people of California have spoken, and our congressional delegation should never have to fear for their lives to represent Californians. We are concerned for the safety of California’s congressional delegation and U.S. Capitol staff, and are reaching out to offer support in every way possible. President Trump must call for an end to this escalating situation, acknowledge the will of the people to bring President-Elect Biden to the White House and move immediately to a peaceful transition of power.”
The day after the Capitol riot, Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti gave a more aggressive response, calling for President Trump to step down:
“It was shameful enough to see members of Congress defy their oath, to not uphold the work of the certification of our 50 states in this country, who spoke to the results of what voters across America demanded in a new president, but then to see a violent mob of thugs force their way into the hallowed halls of our nation’s Capitol, that was not just an assault on our elected representatives, because that’s our capitol that they assaulted… and in doing so, looked to assault our very democracy. Those who would seek to destroy this nation are our domestic enemies. You can’t change a democracy by force, it’s what distinguishes a democracy, but I think we all feel just how fragile a democracy is and how our president, who’s acting like a political pyromaniac, bringing the fuel and the fire and lighting the match needs to stand down or step down if necessary, if he cannot fulfill his responsibility to this nation.”
Not all of Trump’s supporters felt that the protest was initiated in the right way, as Craig DeLuz of the California Republican Assembly told L.A. Weekly:
“I think much like when people looked at what was going on during the riots over most of 2020, there was this mixed feeling of, you recognize that people are angry, people want to be heard and people feeling like they have a legitimate reason why they are angry and want to be heard. At the same time, I am really disappointed and quite frankly ashamed of how some of them chose to express their anger and frustration.”
As pro-Trump rallies were being held in Los Angeles the day of the Capitol siege, a Black woman said she was attacked by at least 40 protesters in downtown L.A.
According to NBC Los Angeles, the demonstrators told the woman to take off her mask.
The woman, identified as simply Belinda, said she flipped off the crowd and was later “clawed” in the face, shoved to the ground and struck with flag poles.
An investigation into the alleged attack is underway and LAPD said in a statement, Thursday:
“The woman has been identified & interviewed by the LAPD. Based on her statements & other evidence, a hate crime/battery report was taken.”
In the aftermath of the attacks, the House of Representatives called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment, allowing Pence to “declare President Donald J. Trump incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting President.”
House Democrats also introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection.” According to the Washington Post, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the earliest the Senate would be able to hold a trial would be January 19, a day before Biden’s inauguration.
In his first speech since being banned from multiple social media platforms, President Trump addressed the calls for impeachment and for the 25th Amendment to be enacted, saying on June 12, “To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence.”
Before the Parler app was removed from mobile devices, digital flyers for a January 20 “Million Militia March” circulated.
Since then, the FBI has given warning of possible “armed protests” occurring through all 50 states until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, according to the Associated Press.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to AP.
While publicly receiving his second COVID-19 dose, President-elect Biden said that despite the attacks that took place on the Capitol, he would continue to hold the inauguration outdoors, as planned.