U.S. Capitol locked down for several hours after pro-Trump rioters storm inside

By: - January 6, 2021 2:00 pm

A protester holds a Trump flag inside the U.S. Capitol Building near the Senate Chamber on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A violent mob temporarily derailed the typically routine process of Congress certifying the presidential election results on Wednesday, with the House of Representatives and Senate abruptly recessing after President Donald Trump’s supporters clashed with police and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Both legislative chambers were evacuated for several hours amid the chaos of pro-Trump rioters who pushed past barricades and eventually on to the House and Senate floors, in a chaotic scene. An armed standoff took place at the entrance to the House chamber, with Capitol Police officers aiming their weapons at rioters, who shattered glass panels on the door.

Photos and videos showed rioters hanging off the balcony in the Senate chamber, and trespassing in the offices of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Lawmakers returned to their legislative session about 7 p.m. CT to continue debate over certifying the election results.

“We have stopped the coup attempt and will be returning to the Capitol today to finish the business of the people,” Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., wrote on Twitter. “We will never back down, we will return.”

Many of the rioters storming the Capitol were carrying Trump flags, video posted on Twitter showed. Crowds had gathered on the National Mall earlier on Wednesday to rally in support of Trump, who has refused to concede the election and had encouraged demonstrators to march on the Capitol.

Trump was silent as the mob sieged the Capitol, even as lawmakers from his own party urged him to tell his supporters to stand down.

“Call it off Mr. President. We need you to call it off,” U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Gsaid on CNN, urging Trump to use his Twitter account to tell the rioters that he supports the transition of power and to “please go home.”

President-elect Joe Biden, speaking shortly after 4 p.m., called for the mob to disperse, and for Trump to make a national appearance to quell the violence.

“The words of a president matter,” Biden said. “At their best, they can inspire. At their worst, can incite.

Trump released a video message shortly after Biden’s remarks, telling people to “go home” but maintaining his unsubstantiated claim that the election was “fraudulent.”

“We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time,” Trump said in the video. “There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election. But we can’t play into the hands of these people.”

The D.C. National Guard was activated, with law enforcement officers from Virginia and Maryland called in to provide backup. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Twitter that Trump had ordered in the Guard along with “other protective services.”

According to pool reports, Vice President Mike Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber, where he had been presiding over the certification. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the chamber’s president pro tempore, also was escorted out with Pence.

As they rushed away, Senate parliamentary staff grabbed hold of the boxes containing the Electoral College certificates.

In a statement, Grassley called it “a sad day for America.”

“Today’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself. This was not a demonstration of any of our protected, inalienable rights. These were un-American acts worthy only of condemnation,” Grassley said. “Those who plowed over police barricades, ignored law enforcement or desecrated our monument to representative democracy flouted the rule of law and disgraced our nation.”

Other Iowa lawmakers took to Twitter to condemn the violence.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a military veteran, called the situation “anarchy.”

Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne, D-3rd District, tweeted that she and her staff were sheltering in place.

Newly elected Rep. Randy Feenstra also tweeted about the protest:

Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, whose Democratic opponent is still appealing results of the Iowa House District 2 election results, also called storming the Capitol “unacceptable.”

The violent demonstration unfolded as lawmakers had gathered to tally the Electoral College votes, the final formality in certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win.

A woman was shot in the chest on Capitol grounds and later died at a hospital, police said. Several Capitol Police were also injured and taken to the hospital.

Dozens of Republican lawmakers were expected to file a series of objections to Biden’s votes from a handful of swing states, alleging fraud claims that have failed in lawsuits brought by the legal team of Trump, who has refused to concede.

The House and Senate convened briefly to begin tallying votes, and the first objection was filed to Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. The two chambers began debate over that objection, which was raised by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and 60 colleagues, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

That debate was upended as the protesters approached the building. As Capitol Police closed the doors to lock down the House floor, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., shouted to Republicans, “This is because of you,” according to pool reports.

Asked about his comment by a reporter after he and other lawmakers had been evacuated to a safe location, Phillips said it reflected “what I was feeling.”

“This has been brewing for four years. And the collective dereliction of duty manifests itself in that moment for me,” Phillips said, according to a pool report.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6 p.m. citywide curfew until 6 a.m. Thursday.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Iowa Capital Dispatch. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.