U.S. Capitol In Chaos As Pro-Trump Extremists Breach Building
Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET
The U.S. Capitol was engulfed in chaos on Wednesday, as supporters of President Trump, responding to his call to head there, breached the complex, resulting in violence in the seat of America's federal government.
The surreal and dangerous scene interrupted proceedings in the House and Senate, as members of Congress were tallying President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.
For two months, Trump has falsely claimed the election was stolen from him, and dozens of fellow Republicans have planned to object to slates of electors from various states they considered contested.
Lawmakers were debating an objection to Arizona's results — a state Trump lost narrowly — when the sessions were recessed as the U.S. Capitol Police attempted to put the complex on lockdown.
Violent protesters were seen smashing windows and occupying the House and Senate floors and various offices. Police were seen with guns drawn in the House chamber, pointing their firearms at windows that were smashed.
People inside the building were told to shelter in place, and members of Congress were told that tear gas was being used in the Capitol rotunda and that they should get ready to put on masks on.
A person suffering from a gunshot wound was transported by Washington, D.C., emergency medical services from the Capitol, an official with knowledge of the matter tells NPR.
On Twitter, Trump asked people to remain peaceful. He then posted a video on Twitter, asking people to go home — but not before reiterating his baseless claims about the election being stolen and saying: "You're very special."
His response to the violence came just a few hours after a midday address to supporters outside the White House, in which he repeatedly denied the results of the election, claiming without evidence that it was rigged against his campaign.
"This election was stolen from you, from me, from the country," he said in the earlier remarks. He also urged his supporters to head to the Capitol, adding: "You'll never take back our country with weakness."
Vice President Pence more forcefully condemned the violence, saying that the chaos engulfing the Capitol was an "attack on our Capitol" and tweeting that people involved must "immediately leave the building" and would be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
In televised remarks, Biden called on Trump to "go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege" at the Capitol.
"Let me be very clear," Biden added, "the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not reflect who we are," he said, calling the violent protesters a "small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness."
"It borders on sedition and it must end now," Biden said. "It's not protest; it's insurrection."
In a tweet, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wrote that the National Guard had been called in at Trump's direction.
"We reiterate President Trump's call against violence and to remain peaceful," she wrote.
The governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, said he would send members of the Virginia National Guard and 200 members of the Virginia State Police to Washington. In a tweet, Northam said this was at the request of the mayor of Washington, D.C.
Mayor Muriel Bowser instituted a 6 p.m. curfew.
Capitol Police also issued safety guidance to staff in multiple federal buildings.
Alerts citing police activity were sent to individuals in the Cannon House Office Building and the Library of Congress' James Madison Memorial Building.
Individuals in Cannon were originally told to evacuate but were later instructed to stay in the building, according to recent email updates from Capitol Police. The evacuation notice has since been cleared.
Staff inside the Library of Congress were also told to exit the building and remain calm, according to reporting from Politico.
The events come as thousands of pro-Trump and far-right protesters have congregated in downtown D.C. to contest the results of the presidential election.
Lawmakers acknowledging the escalating violence have called for a peaceful resolution to the fracas.
Republicans, who spent the summer castigating the mostly peaceful protests against racial police violence, had previously encouraged demonstrations calling to overturn the election results. On Wednesday, many called for law and order as tensions between protesters and law enforcement swelled.
Violence is always unacceptable. Even when passions run high.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 6, 2021
Anyone engaged in violence—especially against law enforcement—should be fully prosecuted.
God bless the Capitol Police and the honorable men & women of law enforcement who show great courage keeping all of us safe.
Congress had begun the process of officially recognizing the results of the presidential election. The process has been delayed for several hours after multiple Republican members challenged the results in Arizona, a move they are expected to do with several states.
NPR's Deirdre Walsh and Kelsey Snell contributed to this report.
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