The U.S. House and Senate halted a joint session on Jan. 6 after protesters breached the Capitol building.
The breach interrupted concurrent debates in the House and Senate over an objection to the counting of a slate of presidential electors from Arizona for former Vice President Joe Biden.
Protesters, some of whom were dressed in Trump apparel, entered the Capitol through a broken window, one video posted on social media shows, although the building may have been breached in more than one location. Other videos showed protesters carrying American and Trump flags walking through the hall connecting the two chambers of the Capitol. A photograph showed one protester in the presiding officer’s chair in the Senate chamber.
Tens of thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters flocked to Washington for the counting of the Electoral College votes and a “big protest” that Trump promoted in the days leading up to Jan. 6. Trump spoke to a massive crowd near the White House shortly before the joint session began at 1 p.m.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a citywide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Trump issued several calls for peace as the events unfolded.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” the president wrote on Twitter.
Video streams from protesters inside the building showed a large crowd of supporters inside skirmishing with law enforcement. One clip showed protesters breaking a window of the Capitol and climbing inside, and another showed protesters in a shoving match with police inside one of the halls; One photograph showed security personnel with guns drawn in the House chamber.
Meanwhile, a young woman wrapped in a Trump flag was shot in the neck. A police spokesman later told news outlets that the woman had died, but declined to provide more details about the incident or the woman’s identity.
The protesters on the Capitol steps were unaware of calls for peace from Trump and other Republicans due to poor cellular reception in the area.
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. 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!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter: “The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now. Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”
She added that “we always knew this responsibility would take us into the night,” adding that members of Congress and staff “should remain on the Capitol complex until they are notified by the United States Capitol Police.”
In the speech ahead of the joint session, Trump urged Pence to take a stand and reject the Biden electors from states where the president has disputed the outcome of the election. As the session began, Pence released a statement explaining that the Constitution constrains him from doing so.
Pence, nonetheless, affirmed an objection lodged by Republicans against the slate of Biden electors from Arizona, triggering two hours of debate by the individual chambers.
During the first half-hour of the debate in the House, Republicans argued for the rejection of the Biden electors, citing election irregularities and potential fraud.
“We have to fix this,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said.
Democrats pushed back, arguing that their opponents were undermining the peaceful transition of power.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in rare agreement with his Democratic counterpart, said Congress can’t change the results of the election.
“Every election we know features some illegality and irregularity, and of course, that’s unacceptable. I support strong state-led voting reforms. Last year’s bizarre pandemic procedures must not become the new norm. But, my colleagues, nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election,” McConnell said.
Amid the interruption, senators were evacuated and other lawmakers were told to shelter in place.
The National Guard and other forces were deployed to the Capitol at the president’s direction, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. The Pentagon said about 1,100 District of Columbia National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement at the Capitol.
“We reiterate President Trump’s call against violence and to remain peaceful,” McEnany said.
Biden, who was scheduled to deliver remarks on reviving the economy, called on the protesters to pull back.
“The scenes of chaos at the capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are,” Biden said. “I call on this mob to pull back and allow democracy to go forward.”
The crowd around the Capitol had largely dispersed when Trump issued yet another message, this time in video format, urging people to “go home.”
“You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order,” Trump said.
The president said that the election was “fraudulent,” but cautioned supporters to not “play into the hands of these people … we have to have peace.”
“We love you. You’re very special,” he said. “I know how you feel.”
Some of the protesters who were still outside the Capitol as the curfew approached said they were aware of Trump’s call to go home, but said they remained nonetheless.
“This is not about Trump. This is about the integrity of our elections,” a female protester, who declined to use her name, told The Epoch Times. “When Trump was still speaking, people started walking away, like ‘We don’t have time.’ This is bigger than that.”
“What good is your government if you can’t trust your elections?”
Bowen Xiao and the Associated Press contributed to this report.