Insurrection: Pro-Trump mob forces way into Capitol as president fans flames of anger and violence

<p>Pro-Donald Trump rioters clash with police outside the US Capitol building, which some of them stormed after breaking windows and overrunning police. One woman died.</p> (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Pro-Donald Trump rioters clash with police outside the US Capitol building, which some of them stormed after breaking windows and overrunning police. One woman died.

(JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Insurrection came to Washington after Donald Trump revved up angry supporters at a fiery rally protesting his election loss, sending many of his loyalists storming across town and forcing their way into the United States Capitol building.

Law enforcement inside the House chamber, where lawmakers were debating the first Republican objection to the Electoral College result in favor of President-elect Joe Biden, engaged in a tense standoff with the mob. Several plain-clothes officers crouched behind a credenza being used to barricade a door to the chamber with handguns drawn and aimed at their fellow-American citizens.

Many of the protesters were clad in the president’s “Make America Great Again” and other merchandise and waving various flags – including the conservative movement’s yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” banner as well as the stars and bars of the Confederacy. They first surrounded the Senate chamber and then marched through the iconic Statutory Hall and did the same outside the House chamber.

As the mob overran Capitol Police officers outside who were outnumbered and, for yet unknown reasons, not backed up by National Guard or other federal or local law enforcement Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford was speaking on the Senate floor in favour of an objection made about an hour earlier during a joint session of both chambers to Arizona’s Electoral College vote in favour of Mr Biden.

There was a commotion in the chamber. Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding over the session. But the voice that spoke was not Mr Trump’s ever-loyal No. 2. It was Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassely.

“The Senate is in recess subject to the call of the chair,” a harried president pro tempore of the chamber said as he banged his gavel three times. Mr Pence already had been removed by his US Secret Service detail and taken to a secure place.

Surreal scenes were captured by journalists and lawmakers inside the legislative hall, with one woman – apparently a protester who had broken into the building – shot in the chest as she stood with Capitol Police officers. As she slumped to the ground, an officer cradled her as another with an automatic rifle pointed his as the rioters trying to bust into the House side of the facility, which remained under siege as of 6 p.m.

As several officers attempted to clear a room, “shots fired” could be heard over their shoulder-mounted radios.

President-elect Joe Biden, scheduled to deliver afternoon remarks from Wilmington, Delaware on the economy, instead used his delayed statement to call on the man he soon will replace to “fulfil his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege”.

“It’s not a protest – it’s insurrection,” he said sternly. “The world’s watching. I am genuinely shocked and sad that our nation, so long the beacon of light and hope for democracy, has come to such a dark moment.”

Confusion gripped Washington as the Capitol Police remained undermanned, as other federal and local law enforcement personnel were slow to arrive to provide assistance.

Pentagon officials batted around blame for why District of Columbia National Guard forces, who were on standby to help police the city amid a number of pro-Trump rallies Tuesday and Wednesday to protest his election loss. A spokesman for Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller denied his boss had rejected a plea for the Guard to head to the Capitol as the violence moved into the House and Senate chambers – and even the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

A National Guard official said her office had not received such a request for help, saying an order would have to come from top Army officials. Before a reporter could contact that office, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany posted a tweet announcing Mr Trump, finally, had deployed the DC Guard to help restore order.

‘Stolen from us’

The president, in several tweets, called for his loyalist mob to remain “peaceful”. He later posted a short video on Twitter that failed to hit the mark of a statesman urging calm during the worst domestic political violence in Washington in decades.

On the one hand the president, standing in the Rose Garden, urged his backers to “go home in peace”.

“You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order,” he said.

But on the other, his rhetoric at times mirrored that of the rally that whipped the crowd into a seditious mob.

“I know your pain. I know you're hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side,” he said, again falling short of a president of an entire country and sounding mostly concerned about himself in the midst of a national tragedy.

It was during that midday rally on the Ellipse just south of the White House that Mr Trump declared “we will never concede – it doesn't happen”.

“You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Mr Trump told his supporters at that rally.

“Turn your cameras, please, and show what is really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer,” he said forcefully. “They're not going to take it any longer."

The large crowd cheered, feeding off the president they so adore’s anger and personal grievance that he has spent five or more years convincing millions of Americans is also theirs.

As National Guard troops walked the halls of the Capitol complex after sunset, Democratic lawmakers and officials began questioning why a man who, in their view, had incited a coup attempt still occupied the Oval Office.

“If you don't impeach and remove a President for staging a coup, what's the point of impeachment,” tweeted Ben Rhodes, a former senior Obama White House national security official, of a commander in chief who is among only three US presidents to ever be impeached by the lower chamber.

A growing list of Democratic House members were calling for just that, though an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not responded to an inquiry asking if she would take that off the table during Mr Trump’s final 13 days in office.

“I am drawing up Articles of Impeachment. Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate,” said Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who has been the target of Mr Trump’s racist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rants.

‘This is not who we are’

Even some GOP members expressed disgust with what Mr Trump told the mob before it busted out windows and entered the Capitol.

“The dangerous destructive activity at the Capitol is continuing to unfold. I, along with other members of the Senate, are secure but the situation is clearly not safe. It is truly mob rule at the moment,” Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski tweeted from lockdown. “My prayers are with the officers that are protecting and defending and who have gone down. Mr. President, tell your supporters to stop the violence. Stop the assault. Now.”

Mr Trump did just that moments later. But the damage to the Capitol, the process of certifying Mr Biden’s Electoral College win, and the country already had been done.

“This is not who we are,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who became a close Trump ally and defended his most jaw-dropping statements and hardline policies, told Fox News from inside the Capitol.

His statement was in the form of a statement, but could have been taken as a question as one rioter stormed inside the House chamber and ascended the dias with arms raised, yelling incorrectly that Mr Trump won the election. As night fell and chaos continued to rule in Washington, the answer remains very much unknown.

But even as law enforcement tried restoring order so the House and Senate could possibly finish its Electoral College certification session, Mr Trump fired off a tweet defending the violent mob.

“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,” he wrote. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

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