Congress confirmed Joe Biden’s Electoral College triumph Thursday morning, trouncing GOP objections, after a pro-Trump mob assaulted the Capitol in an attack that has reportedly left four people dead.
Outgoing President Donald Trump said “there will be an orderly transition” after Congress concluded its count.
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer told WTOP he would expect to be fired, if he were still in charge when rioters broke windows, breached security and traipsed through “the people’s house.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order extending the public emergency declared earlier Wednesday for a total of 15 days — until Jan. 21 at 3 p.m.
Below is a statement from Bowser’s office:
Today, First Amendment protests turned violent. Many persons came to the District armed and for the purpose of engaging in violence and destruction and have engaged in violence and destruction. They have fired chemical irritants, bricks, bottles, and guns. They have breached the security of the Capitol and their destructive and riotous behavior has the potential to spread beyond the Capitol. Their motivation is ongoing. Today, they sought to disrupt the Congressional proceedings relating to the acceptance of Electoral College votes. President Trump continues to fan rage and violence by contending that the Presidential election was invalid. Persons are dissatisfied with judicial rulings and the findings of State Boards of Elections, and some persons can be expected to continue their violent protests through the inauguration.
One woman who was shot inside the Capitol later died, D.C. police said. She has yet to be identified.
Four people died during the chaos, including the woman who was shot and killed at the Capitol, and one woman and two men who died because of medical emergencies, police said.
What to know now
- Trump says “there will be an orderly transition” after Congress concludes electoral vote count certifying Biden victory
- D.C., Arlington and Alexandria are under a curfew until Thursday morning.
- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in his state. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the public emergency 15 days, until after the inauguration.
- Police said they have arrested 52 people.
- A woman shot inside the Capitol has died.
- President Donald Trump spoke to supporters in a video, which has since been removed, telling them to “go home” but also excusing their violent behavior repeatedly.
- President-elect Joe Biden spoke to the nation, asking protesters to stand down.
D.C. issued a city curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday. Nearby Alexandria and Arlington, in Virginia, are also under a curfew that started at 6 p.m. Despite those limits, dozens of President Donald Trump’s supporters remained on D.C. streets in defiance.
D.C. police Chief Robert Contee said during a briefing Wednesday night that 52 arrests have been made.
Contee called the comparison between the arrests over curfew violations during last summer’s protests — where several hundred protesters were arrested — and Wednesday’s arrests for violating the 6 p.m. curfew “not appropriate.”
“I think the first thing that we have to do is we needed to make sure that we had a safe situation. We had to contain the situation that we were dealing with. And the moment that we were able to contain the situation, then members were able to start affecting the rest of the initial arrest for curfew, the curfew violation, as well as the unlawful activity at the Capitol,” Contee said, adding that arrests are “going on as we speak.”
Contee said 14 D.C. police officers have been injured, including one with serious injuries and another who was injured in the face after being struck by projectiles.
In addition, police recovered two pipe bombs from the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee headquarters. They also found Molotov cocktails on the grounds of the Capitol. Six firearms were recovered Wednesday, in addition to three Tuesday night and a stun gun.
Bowser said that there was a difference between the federal response clearing protesters at Lafayette Square — so Trump can walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church to have his photo taken while holding a Bible — and the rioters at the U.S. Capitol.
“I think that we saw different types of vehicles used. We saw a different posture used in some cases. We did not see, for example, deployment of those military personnel on the Capitol grounds,” Bowser said.
The FBI is looking for information that will help identify people who instigated violence in D.C. The bureau is accepting tips and digital media that show rioting and violence in the Capitol and the surrounding area on Jan. 6, according to a news release.
Relevant information, including photos or videos, can be submitted via the agency’s website.
This is a developing story. Stay with WTOP for the latest.
Chaos at the Capitol
Just before 6 p.m., officials declared the Capitol “secure,” nearly four hours after violent pro-Trump occupiers disrupted the electoral count, placing the area on lockdown.
Members of Congress inside the House chamber were told by police to put on gas masks after tear gas was dispersed in the Capitol Rotunda.
— Ken Duffy (@KenDuffyNews) January 6, 2021
Just before 5 p.m., Bowser spoke at a news conference with other officials, reminding everyone of the evening curfew and offering more details of the riot.
“Stay home and stay calm, and if you see something, say something, but above all, stay home. The behavior that we are witnessing is shameful; it is unpatriotic, but above all, it is unlawful,” Bowser said.
“Today, what we witnessed was unlawful, riotous behavior, and people who come to our city and engage in unlawful behavior will be held accountable,” Contee said. “A riot was declared. It was clear that the crowd was intent on causing harm to our officers by deploying chemical irritants on police to force entry to the U.S. Capitol building.”
Police later used tear gas and percussion grenades to begin clearing Trump supporters from U.S. Capitol grounds ahead of the curfew.
Bowser urged those in the area to leave immediately. “We just need to make sure that everybody knows that they need to clear the Capitol grounds. They need to remove themselves back to wherever they’re staying or back to their home state, and let the police do their job,” she said.
WTOP’s Ken Duffy was near a scene where Trump supporters moved in and attacked a media section near the Capitol Building, trashing cameras and equipment.
— Ken Duffy (@KenDuffyNews) January 6, 2021
WTOP’s Capitol Hill correspondent Mitchell Miller was evacuated from the building just before 4 p.m. by U.S. Capitol Police in an underground tunnel. Miller said rioters were able to get inside the Rotunda, inside of offices, on the floor and inside the National Statuary Hall.
The D.C. National Guard was mobilized, and the law enforcement response was to be led by the Department of Justice, according to a statement from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Along with 500 National Guard members, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he was sending 200 state troopers to help with the response. Montgomery County had also sent dozens of officers to D.C. to help restore order.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he sent members of the National Guard along with 200 state troopers in response to a request from Bowser.
Bowser said the focus, in addition to Congress being able to do its work, will be the proper deployment of the additional assistance that is coming.
“So that the Capitol and its grounds can be secured by the United States Capitol Police and the resources under the D.C. National Guard. And we are very focused on that. And we will continue to focus because clearly, we will have more events at the Capitol, and we want to make sure that every lesson learned from this one is implemented,” Bowser said.
‘The world’s watching’
In a video that was later deleted, Trump told protesters to “go home,” while also wrongly maintaining that the election was stolen and telling his supporters, “We love you. You’re very special.” In an unprecedented step, Twitter also suspended his account for 12 hours after he repeatedly posted false accusations about the election.
Facebook followed up in the evening, announcing that Trump wouldn’t be able to post for 24 hours following two violations of its policies.
In contrast, Biden spoke to the nation on Wednesday afternoon, asking pro-Trump protesters to stand down, and calling on the president to take action.
“This is not a protest; it’s insurrection. The world’s watching,” Biden said.
WTOP’s National Security Correspondent J.J. Green said there were reports of armed standoffs at the Capitol. He said it was unclear if it was just officers or armed protesters, as well.
The electoral vote count session was suspended as rioters breached the Capitol and did not go through metal detectors.
Of the Capitol Police, Green said, “I don’t think they expected this to happen,” adding, “They expected people to respect those barriers. They were expecting this to be a normal, usual protest.”
BREAKING: Protesters are on the Senate floor now: pic.twitter.com/k4Q0ln8pZs
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) January 6, 2021
Extremely tense on the west front of the Capitol. You can tell there’s been ample pepper spray — the air stings.
Barricades have been breached and Trump supporters are pressing against a line of riot cops. Repeated yells of PUSH FORWARD. pic.twitter.com/SQPCtGnhTI
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) January 6, 2021
Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown and a former U.S. Capitol Police officer both attributed the Capitol breach to poor planning.
Before the rioters entered the building, WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez estimated that “at least a thousand people” gathered beneath the west front of the Capitol building.
“I can hear someone declaring on a megaphone: ‘March forward, march forward,'” Alvarez said.
He reported hearing a large bang from the front of the crowd right after. “‘Move forward, patriots,’ somebody is shouting,” Alvarez said.
He also reported that protesters were going face-to-face with a line of riot police who were attempting to prevent further access to the western front of the Capitol.
Pepper spray was used, Alvarez said. “But despite that, nobody, neither the police nor the group of Trump supporters, appear to be moving anywhere.”
Video posted online showed demonstrators clashing with authorities on the steps of Congress.
BREAKING: Trump supporters have breached the Capitol building, tearing down 4 layers of security fencing and are attempting to occupy the building — fighting federal police who are overrun
This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Thousands, police can’t stop them pic.twitter.com/VVdTUwV5YN
— ELIJAH SCHAFFER (@ElijahSchaffer) January 6, 2021
Metro’s Orange, Silver and Blue lines temporarily bypassed Capitol South because of the violence. Metro later announced early closures for Metrorail and Metrobus.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who represents the Capitol Hill area, tweeted: “There are no evacuation orders for nearby residences. But MPD advises residents should not head to the US Capitol area at this time.”
Inside the Capitol, a cadre of Republican lawmakers were orchestrating an unprecedented attempt to overturn Biden’s election win over Trump. Shortly after the joint session started, Republicans objected to the election tally in Arizona.
Trump declared at a campaign rally in Georgia on Monday that he would “fight like hell” to hold on to the presidency, and he appealed to Republican lawmakers to reverse his election loss.
Trump’s attempt to enlist his allies to overturn Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win is unlike anything ever attempted in modern times, and it is all but certain to fail. It would have to be approved by a majority vote of both chambers; the House of Representatives is under Democratic control.
‘I never thought I would see a day like this in America’
Lawmakers, governors and other officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia reacted to the violent affray at the Capitol.
“I never thought I would see a day like this in America,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a video message posted on Twitter. “All Americans should be outraged by this attack on our nation’s capital. This is a heinous and violent assault on our democracy.”
Black Lives Matter DC issued a statement Wednesday night:
We tried to warn the mayor and other elected officials, hotels and other businesses and we demanded that our city and sacred Black spaces be protected. Though we remain unsurprised, it should have never have gotten to this point. Instead of brutalizing Black Lives Matter activists, D.C. officials should have intervened months ago. White supremacists were emboldened and made to feel comfortable, confident and secure to come to our city and reign terror.
In their statement, organizers added, “If you believe that Black lives matter, the only way forward is to join the movement for Black liberation, rise to the moment for D.C. statehood and be on the side of freedom.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., issued a statement calling for Trump’s removal ahead of Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“The President has been encouraging these domestic terrorists since before the election,” she said. “He could have stopped them at any moment, but instead he whipped them into a frenzy and sicced them on the Capitol. The Cabinet must remove him today or the House must impeach.”
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich tweeted, “What we are seeing at the Capitol now is not a protest, it’s an attempted coup — an effort to overturn our election and to destroy democracy.” He said Trump is responsible for the riot.
During the chaos earlier, a number of lawmakers tweeted that they locked down in their Capitol Hill offices or sought shelter.
Rep. David Trone, D-Md., tweeted a photo of himself in a safety hood taking shelter in a Capitol Hill hallway.
I am safe. We have been evacuated.
Let me be clear: we will not be stopped by this lawless intimidation. pic.twitter.com/WWDJst4V1B
— Rep. David Trone (@RepDavidTrone) January 6, 2021
Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. told WTOP that he had raised questions with Congressional leadership about security for Wednesday’s joint session.
“I was surprised to see how rapidly this developed without the appropriate response from the Capitol police and other supporting law enforcement elements,” Brown said.
Though protests are nothing new on Capitol Hill, Brown added that what devolved into a security breach was not what his colleagues had expected.
“We make sacrifices, but we don’t expect to make this kind of sacrifice where our lives are at risk. And I really believe, for those members and staff that were on the floor of the House and the Senate today, their lives were truly at risk,” Brown said.
Brown also said that there needed to be an examination of how the security of the Capitol building was breached so quickly.
Local faith leaders also responded to Wednesday’s riot.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, said in a statement: “Our United States Capitol is sacred ground and a place where people over the past centuries have rightly demonstrated, representing a wide variety of opinions. We Americans should honor the place where our nation’s laws and policies are debated and decided. We should feel violated when the legacy of freedom enshrined in that building is disrespected and desecrated.”
In a separate statement, the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, and the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said: “The demonstrations here in Washington want to take those foundational principles — principles that have undergirded this nation for nearly 250 years — and toss them out. They do not respect our laws. The protesters do not respect our social contract. They do not respect our safety. And they bring dishonor to themselves and on those they claim to support. This. Must. End.”
Before the Capitol storming
Around noon, Trump personally addressed his supporters at the Ellipse and immediately slammed the news media. He then repeated his claim that the 2020 election was rigged.
“We will never give up, we will never concede,” Trump said near the White House to massive applause.
He said that Democrats had performed the most brazen political “theft” in American history. Trump also attacked “weak Republicans” and singled out Utah Sen. Mitt Romney for scorn.
He continued to mount pressure on Vice President Mike Pence overseeing the tally of electoral votes in Congress, saying Pence should “do the right thing,” while erroneously claiming that the vice president can overturn the election results.
But Pence defied Trump shortly after the president’s comments, saying he can’t claim “unilateral authority” to reject electoral votes that will make Biden president.
Trump slammed Pence on Twitter: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
Trump complained about the Supreme Court as well, to which he has appointed three judges, saying the judicial body “loves to vote against me.”
Trump then said he would walk with protesters to the Capitol after the rally. He did not.
WTOP’s Nick Iannelli reported from the scene that Ohio Drive Southwest was packed, as crowds gathered for the rally by the White House. He estimated that there were tens of thousands in attendance. “The lack of public restrooms here with this number of people has become quite a problem,” Iannelli tweeted.
Alvarez reported that Trump supporters chanted and spoke through megaphones.
“No vaccination. Truth, freedom and health,” one chanted to the crowd on their way to the Ellipse. “We’re going to save our republic,” another yelled.
Alvarez added that the National Mall was packed with Trump supporters, from the Ellipse to the World War II memorial.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan, Nick Iannelli, Alejandro Alvarez, Ken Duffy, Mitch Mitchell, Jack Moore, Teta Alim and Abigail Constantino, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.