What transpired in Washington on Wednesday was a modern-version day of infamy: Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to prevent a joint session of Congress from confirming the electoral college’s votes certifying Joe Biden as President.
After several hours of violent occupation by Trump supporters on Wednesday evening, the Capitol in Washington was declared safe again. Heavily armed police officers cleared the building and also used stun grenades and tear gas.
Chaotic scenes played out in the Capitol Wednesday after numerous Trump supporters made their way into the building where a joint session of Congress was getting ready to confirm the result of the presidential election in November and Joe Biden’s victory, a purely formal act.
Instead, Senators and Members of the House had to be brought to safety from an angry mob made up of extremists who call themselves patriots.
TV pictures showed how rioters smashed windows, ransacked parliamentary offices, and posed in the vacated Senate Chamber. For hours, parts of the building were in the hands of the mob. Unarmed Trump supporter Ashli Babbit sustained a gunshot wound during confrontations and died hours later.
A curfew was put into effect in Washington since 6 p.m. local time, and neighboring states also sent the National Guard and state police to the capital.
According to the police, several weapons were seized, and according to media reports, the FBI also defused at least two explosive devices.
What Caused the Riot?
The protests escalated after Trump called on his supporters during a “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday morning to protest against the confirmation of Congress’s election. Trump also repeated his conspiracy theory that he had been cheated out of winning the election.
When the looting started, the president tweeted, “These are things and events that happen,” claiming again that his “landslide victory” was stolen. According to Trump, his supporters were “great patriots” who have long been treated unfairly, he wrote. Previously, Trump had called on the people at the Capitol – also via Twitter – to be moderate. “Stay peaceful!” He wrote, calling on them to support the police and security forces.
After the unrest, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube took an unusually tough stance and deleted Trump’s posts in which he again disseminated his unsubstantiated claims about electoral fraud. Twitter even blocked the president’s account for the next twelve hours. In the event of further violations, the account could be blocked entirely, the company said.
The election confirmation process continued after Vice President Mike Pence condemned the events in an unusually harsh manner.
Biden: Riots Were an ‘Unprecedented Attack’
President Joe Biden spoke of an “unprecedented attack” on US democracy. The violence must end, said Biden. “Storming the Capitol, breaking windows, occupying offices, occupying the United States Senate, rummaging through the desks of the House of Representatives in the Capitol, and threatening the safety of duly elected officials is not a protest,” Biden noted. “It’s a riot.”
Wednesday’s occurrences were the culmination of four years in which President Trump tried everything to divide America, weaponize hatred against institutions and benefit off the people’s outrage.
There is simply no denying that he is greatly responsible for one of the darkest hours in America’s history. By repeatedly claiming the election was stolen, the self-proclaimed president of law and order encouraged these insurrectionists.
In terms of actions, right now, anything should and must be on the table, from impeachment and censure, to invoking the 25th Amendment and removing the president from office.
The US will only be able to revitalize its norms that have been eroded over these past four years if it holds Donald Trump accountable. Accountable for having fulfilled his promise of not accepting a peaceful transition of power and for having turned the US into a “banana republic,” as former president George W. Bush wrote in reaction to the events that unfolded.