Updated Supporters of defeated American president Donald Trump this morning stormed the capital’s legislative halls, shutting down the process to confirm his replacement.
Within minutes of the president speaking at a rally on the nearby Mall in Washington DC, in which he urged his followers to march to the Capitol and put a stop to Joe Biden being officially approved as the next national leader by lawmakers, fights broke out on the steps of the building as thousands attempted to force their way past the relatively few cops present and break into the building.
The insurrectionists were successful, smashing their way through windows and doors into the Capitol, leading to dramatic scenes not seen since the British forces trashed Washington DC in 1814 or perhaps the March 1954 shootings. Both chambers of Congress were evacuated, halting the counting of electoral votes, with lawmakers forced to don gas masks as tear gas was deployed in an effort to clear the riot.
During the ransacking, Trump's supporters swarmed legislative offices, tweeting live video and images of desks hastily abandoned, with office computers still on, monitors active, and internal emails and documents visible and accessible. Some stole private correspondence as souvenirs. This will be a nightmare for security personnel to clean up.
A woman was shot, and pictures of plain-clothes officers with guns drawn pointing at the doors of the Senate were shared online.
Despite promising to lead the mob himself, the president was driven to his current residence, the White House, following his speech in which he claimed, without basis, that the November election had been stolen from him.
In a lengthy screed in which the president argued that his untrue allegations of widespread fraud were “so crazy no one will believe them,” he twice exhorted his supporters to derail the process taking place behind him in which his rival was being formally certified as the next president ahead of his inauguration on January 20.
This incitement was a last-ditch effort by the president to retain his power and position following a lengthy failed legal campaign, numerous rallies in which he railed against democratic elections, and efforts to pressure officials, lawmakers and, finally, his own vice-president to overturn the results.
Trump lost the election by a significant margin, and was further weakened on Wednesday when his tantrums were blamed for the loss of the Senate from his Republican party to the Democrats in an election for two seats in the state of Georgia.
Trump was embarrassed just days earlier when his effort to force the Secretary of State of Georgia to “find” tens of thousands of votes in his favor were made public by the governor himself who recorded and released the phone call. With Trump’s grasp on power slipping, and his own party turning on him, the president turned to drastic measures.
The president was aided by a number of Republican lawmakers who reiterated bogus claims of fraudulent results and used the vote certification process to make speeches from the floor of Congress.
BREAKING: The U.S. Capitol is on lockdown after pro-Trump protestors breached the building as Congress began to certify Electoral College votes for Biden. https://t.co/QiCIeY3ZPv— Axios (@axios) January 6, 2021
Even those lawmakers who raised objections to Biden's win were seemingly shocked by the result of their actions. Despite leading efforts to disrupt the ratification process, soon after Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was evacuated thanks to the rising level of mayhem in the Capitol, he tweeted: “Violence is always unacceptable. Even when passions run high. Anyone engaged in violence - especially against law enforcement - should be fully prosecuted.”
In the past few minutes, Biden gave a short speech in which he described today's trespassing of the halls of liberty as an "insurrection," and urged Trump to go on TV and call off his mob, some of which were reportedly armed.
Meanwhile the president remained behind closed doors at the White House. Under pressure from senior lawmakers, who called the storming of the Capitol “Un-American” and demanded that the president tell his followers to stand down, Trump tweeted: “I am asking for everyone at the US Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order - respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
He later told them to go home in a video address since removed from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube by those platforms for breaking their rules on misinformation and inciting violence.
Meanwhile, the National Guard is being deployed to clear the area, hours too late. ®
Updated to add at 0045 UTC, January 7
Twitter has now locked Donald Trump's personal account, preventing it from posting more tweets, and will be unlocked 12 hours after three specific messages are removed. If they are not removed, the profile will remain locked for good. Facebook and Instagram have also frozen his accounts.
The woman who was shot has died.
Finally, the Capitol intruders have mostly dispersed with few arrests, and there are plans to continue today's proceedings this evening within the building. The Capitol's security was ultimately far too lax, far too lightly manned despite the anticipation of trouble, and far too light in touch.