Washington, January 7 (Xinhua): On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Capitol has witnessed what many called “a dark chapter” in history as protesters stormed into the building, clashed with security officers and forced the evacuation of lawmakers who were having a session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
The chaotic and violent scenes, at the seat of American democracy, has laid bare the country’s profound divide as well as failure in governance.
STORM AT CAPITOL
Lawmakers of both the House and the Senate had to stop their debates and evacuated from the floors after a group of protesters broke into the historic building. A widespread picture on the Internet showed Capitol Police inside the House chamber drawing their guns near a barricaded door in a standoff with people trying to break in.
The last time the U.S. Capitol was breached was August 1814, when the British set the building on fire during the War of 1812.
Confrontations between law enforcement officers and protesters on Wednesday have caused multiple injuries on both sides. Four people, including a woman shot at the Capitol, died in the clash, according to police.
Pipe bombs were reportedly found on Capitol grounds as well as in headquarters for the Democratic and Republican National Committees.
The protesters “have fired chemical irritants, bricks, bottles, and guns. They have breached the security of the Capitol and their destructive and riotous behavior has the potential to spread beyond the Capitol,” said Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
A curfew for the District of Columbia is in effect through Thursday morning.
Bowser also extended a state of public emergency to 15 days on Wednesday night, until the day after Biden’s inauguration.
The chaos, violence and disruption came as outgoing President Donald Trump continued to push claims of a “fraudulent” election, which had been dismissed by U.S. courts at different levels due to a profound lack of evidence.
A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump attends a demonstration near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States, Jan. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
On Wednesday noon, the president addressed a massive crowd of supporters on the Ellipse, a park south of the White House, and encouraged demonstrations on Capitol Hill, with an eye to adding pressure on Congressional Republicans who have been divided over efforts to contest Electoral College votes.
The violent clashes at the Capitol later made headlines across the globe and prompted widespread concern in the United States and beyond.
In a video clip posted on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, Trump urged his supporters to “go home” after the demonstrations.
“You have to go home now. We have to have peace,” Trump said, while again repeating allegations that the election had been “stolen.”
Twitter has temporarily blocked Trump’s account and asked him to remove tweets that the company said violated its “Civic Integrity policy.”
Both the Senate and the House late Wednesday night rejected an attempt to overturn Biden’s win in Arizona, long a deep-red state that flipped to the Democrats in last year’s election.
The chambers later met in a joint session again to resume counting the electoral votes, and concluded by certifying the Electoral College count of 306 votes in favor of Biden against 232 in favor of Trump.
It takes at least 270 electoral votes to win the White House. The former U.S. vice president also won the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots.
A growing number of political figures of both parties, including former U.S. presidents, have denounced the violent incidents, and many have directly accused Trump of fanning the flames of unrest. Multiple top officials in Trump’s administration have already resigned or are reportedly considering resignations.
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States, Jan. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
Biden, in remarks from Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday afternoon, condemned what he called an “insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol.
“It’s not protest, it’s insurrection,” Biden said. “This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition.”
It was a “dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a Senate session when Congress reconvened on Wednesday night to resume the proceedings to count the electoral votes.
“History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation,” former U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”
“So much for the peaceful transfer of power, for American exceptionalism, for our being a shining city on a hill,” tweeted Richard Haass, president of U.S. think tank the Council on Foreign Relations.
“We are seeing images that I never imagined we would see in this country — in some other capital yes, but not here,” Haass wrote. “No one in the world is likely to see, respect, fear, or depend on us in the same way again. If the post-American era has a start date, it is almost certainly today.”(Video reporters: Hu Yousong, Tan Yixiao, Yang Shilong and Zhang Ruoxuan; Video editor Gao Shang)