A mob of thousands of pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol during the confirmation of electoral college votes on Wednesday, putting a hold to the process to confirm president-elect Joe Biden’s victory for several hours.
The building was locked down as numerous lawmakers and staff members were forced to barricade themselves in offices to hide from the rioters, some of whom were carrying guns and other weapons.
The rioters breached the Capitol after attending a rally hosted by Mr Trump, where he incited the insurrection with a speech, saying: “We're going to walk down to the Capitol,” and adding: “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Later, with people dead and injured, Mr Trump told his supporters to “respect the law”, but did not instruct them to leave the area.
“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 tweeted on Wednesday evening.
He followed up the tweet on Wednesday, by posting a short video on Twitter, where he asked the rioters to go home, but told the mob: “We love you. You're very special.”
The language from Mr Trump was in stark contrast to demands he made during Black Lives Matter protests in July 2020, when he called for demonstrators to be sentenced to 10 years in prison if they vandalised federal buildings.
Protests against police brutality took place for months during the summer, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
On 27 July 2020, Mr Trump tweeted: “Anarchists, agitators, or Protestors who vandalize or damage our Federal Courthouse in Portland, or any Federal Buildings in any of our Cities or States, will be prosecuted under our recently re-enacted Statues & Monuments Act.”
He added: “MINIMUM TEN YEARS IN PRISON. Don’t Do it.”
Mr Trump tweeted the warning after a small group of protesters attempted to set fire to the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. He also supported the use of the National Guard in the city – but in Washington on Wednesday it was Mike Pence, his vice president, who authorised the Guard’s deployment.
Social media users highlighted the contrast in Mr Trump’s language between the protests in July and the riots that took place on Wednesday.
Television producer Kyle Griffin posted a screenshot of Mr Trump’s tweet in July, and wrote: “Flashback: July 27. Trump called for protesters who damaged federal buildings to get a minimum of 10 years in prison.”
Flashback: July 27. Trump called for protesters who damaged federal buildings to get a minimum of 10 years in prison. pic.twitter.com/3F58IR1HHf
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 6, 2021
Author Jimmy Gleick wrote: “I believe the worst ‘antifa’ ever did to a federal building involved spray paint on the exterior,” while comedian Greg Benson said: “This just applies to Black people though, right?”
Comedy writer Scott Zabielski joked: “Can't wait to see this enforced equally” and author George Papadopoulos added: “There is ALWAYS a tweet!”
There is ALWAYS a tweet! https://t.co/OqYak48XGA
— George Papadopoulos (@feeonlyplanner) January 6, 2021
Four people died during the riots on Wednesday, as several police officers were injured by members of the pro-Trump mob. Several US representatives have called for Mr Trump to be impeached in the wake of the riots.
No incident comparable to what took place on Wednesday occurred during any of the racial injustice protests last summer. The last time the US Capitol was breached to the scale of Wednesday was back in 1814, during wartime.