Capitol Hill overtaken by insurrectionists

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Helen Ehrlich, Editor-In-Chief

Washington DC was plunged into a state of panic and one of the nation’s darkest days on January 6, 2020 after the certification of the 2020 presidential election results was interrupted by a siege of pro-Trump protesters. Tensions had been rising from the election certification and protesting reached a boiling point.

 

Trump supporters from across the United States came together on the morning of the sixth to hear President Trump speak at the The Save America March on the Ellipse outside the White House. He told the crowd that he would “never concede,” before attempting to put pressure on his vice president. Trump continued to make false legal claims before directing the crowd to march towards the Capitol Building.

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Vice President Mike Pence then released a letter stating that the president cannot “reject electoral votes unilaterally” and that he would be moving forward with the election certification. As Congress was attempting to certify the results, with the most delaying objections regarding the votes in Arizona, Trump supporters breached the Capitol and gained entry to the building. Trump then tweeted about Mike Pence, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution…” Pence was quickly evacuated.

 

The House and Senate both went into lockdown and lawmakers and staffers were evacuated. There were bomb threats and the sound of gunfire was heard. The attacking mob roved around Capitol Hill. They sat in offices and burst into the Senate Chamber, while others hung Trump flags off of balconies and statues. One woman was shot while attempting to break into the Chamber, she died after being rushed to a hospital. The Metro Police Department is investigating the death. Three other people later died due to medical emergencies. 

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Trump-supporting white supremacists and general Trump supporters, particularly those radicalized by online conspiracies such as QAnon, were attempting an insurrection. The protesters believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump, despite evidence and data that claims otherwise. They had been fighting with police since January 5 and began to spray Capitol Hill officers with pepper spray, hospitalizing three officers. Black Lives Matter signs were torn down and a noose was put up near the Hill, drawing attention to the racism that fueled many of the rioters. Open carry is illegal in DC and it is especially illegal to carry a gun in the Capitol, meaning many of these rioters further violated the law in that regard. 

 

The National Guard arrived at Capitol Building at the direction of Vice President Pence and at the request of Mayor Bowser. Homeland Security and the F.B.I sent in agents. The F.B.I. considered deploying these troops during protests in June, but ultimately decided not to at that time. Simply walking up the Capitol steps and getting about a street block away from the Capitol is not permitted, so the footage of police allowing the mob to flow into the campus raised further concerns. Many contrast this with the violence seen from police in DC in the spring of 2020 against (read more here) and other social justice protests. Violence against these white rioters was far more subdued than what occurred in DC’s streets against Black protesters. Three days prior to the riot, the Pentagon had asked the Capitol Police if they would need the National Guard. They turned down assistance. As the mob charged up the steps, the FBI offered agents. The Capitol Police turned down aid again until they were overridden. The Capitol Police had prepared for a demonstration, not a coup attempt. The head of the U.S. Capitol Police will be resigning effective January 16 due to the handling of the breach. 

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The show of force from these agents and additional Metro Police Department officers helped to secure the building. This included the removal of pipe bombs at Republican and Democratic National Committee headquarter offices.

Democrat Jon Ossoff beat Republican incumbent Purdue in Georgia’s Senate runoff election, securing Democrats complete control of the House, Senate and presidency. This further panicked the riots on the streets.

 

President-elect Biden addressed the nation, calling for an end to the protests, saying, “It’s not protest, it’s insurrection.” Biden demanded that Trump “end this siege.” Trump then tweeted a video telling his followers that they should go home and that “we love you. You’re very special.” He later tweeted, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” 

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Twitter then locked Trump’s account for 12 hours. They also threatened, for the first time ever, to permanently suspend his account. Numerous tweets of Trump’s from the day were taken down by Twitter for inciting violence and replies were shut off on others.

 

Virginia’s Governor Northam followed DC’s mayor and instated a curfew in Alexandria and Arlington. Violence and hotel-goers were spilling out into Northern Virginia. Rioters disregarded the 6 PM curfews and further clashed with police. Virginia sent 200 National Guard troopers to DC to assist with the removal and combating of rioters.

 

At 8 PM, Congress returned to the Capitol Building to finish vote certification. Republicans came together and called for an end to violence and the certification of the results, conceding that Democrats won. This included formerly vehement supporters of Trump, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham. Pence stated, “Freedom wins, and this is still the people’s house. As we reconvene, the world will again witness the resilience of our democracy.” 

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Certification did not continue without denial. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who had lost her seat to Democrat Raphael Warnock that morning, had pledged to support the certification of her state but then changed her stance and objected. Arizona’s certification faced debate in the House and Senate but rejected the objection. The Senate skipped Pennsylvania’s debate and overturned the objection. The House also overturned Pennsylvania’s certification debate, but the process almost led to a fistfight on the floor (read more here). Some Republicans claimed that it was Antifa who was responsible for the insurrection. There is no evidence to support these claims. 

 

There are now concerns regarding COVID rates. Black Lives Matter protests did not lead to a spike in cases, as people wore masks and remained outside. Pro-Trump rioters did not wear masks during the mobbing of the Capitol and charge inside buildings. Case numbers are already climbing in DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV). Protesters are not DMV locals for the most part, so they are staying in hotels and potentially further infecting workers.

World leaders condemn the violence and voice concerns as members of the Trump administration resign. Pelosi stated that if the 25th amendment is not invoked to remove Trump from office, she will support his impeachment. Articles have already been drawn up and numerous leaders have called for his removal.

 

Leaders in Virginia and DC are bracing for further violence leading up to Inauguration Day.