Protesters backing US President Donald Trump breached the US Capitol on Wednesday, forcing police to draw weapons amid chaotic scenes and causing a delay in the constitutional process to affirm Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. Here's an explanation of some of the major related events.
Dubai: US lawmakers have said they will investigate how Capitol police handled Wednesday's violent breach of security, questioning whether a lack of preparedness allowed the mob to occupy and vandalise the building.
Four people died, a woman who was shot and three other people who suffered “medical emergencies” related to the breach, Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee said. Police said 52 people were arrested as of Wednesday night, including 26 on the Capitol grounds. Fourteen police officers were injured, Contee said.
What is the significance of Capitol Hill?
Known as the Capitol Building, the United States Capitol is the meeting place of the US Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the US federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The original building was completed in 1800. The building is one of America's most iconic buildings, and a prime example of 19th-century neoclassical architecture. The building's design was selected by President George Washington from a number of competition entries in 1793.
In addition to its use by Congress, the Capitol is a museum of American art and history.
Was this the first major attack on the US legislature?
Apparently not. There have been several attacks in the past on the iconic building - made by the British, Puerto Rican nationalists, a Harvard professor and Communist radicals. Here’s a look at some of them.
August 14, 1814: British attack
British forces tried to burn the Capitol in 1814. After defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross set fire to multiple government and military buildings, including the White House (then called the Presidential Mansion), the Capitol building, as well as other facilities of the US. They looted the building first, and then set the southern and northern wings ablaze, incinerating the Library of Congress.
July 2, 1915: Dynamite attack by German professor
Frank Holt, a professor at Cornell University, was suspected of smuggling three sticks of dynamite in a suitcase into the Capitol on July 2, 1915. Finding the Senate chamber locked, he settled on an area in the Senate's reception area. The bomb went off hours later, causing damage. New York Times described Holt as "an educator with a reputation among his associates as an easygoing man.” Holt was also suspected of sending a letter to a US newspaper paper under the moniker “R. Pearce”, expressing opposition to the US selling arms and munitions to Germany's enemies as the First World War progressed.
The next day, the same suspect proceeded to the Long Island home of financier J.P. Morgan Jr., — who he pegged as a war profiteer — injuring him with two shots before being subdued by Morgan's butler. But it turned out the suspect was neither Holt nor Pearce, but Erich Muenter, a German who was a Harvard professor suspected in the poisoning death of his wife in 1906. He had fled to Mexico and returned with an alias.
Muenter was dead by July 6, 1915, killed by a fall in prison. It was ruled a suicide. [Events were detailed in the 2014 book by Howard Blum, Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America.]
March 1, 1954: Attack by Puerto Rican nationalists
Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the US Capitol Building while members were debating a bill concerning migrant Mexican workers. At least four people were killed in this terror attack. It was part of the push for nationhood for Puerto Rico and a push back at US colonialism. The attack came four years after a failed assassination attempt that targeted then-president Harry Truman (1950). Two years earlier, in 1952, a significant majority of Puerto Ricans voted for “commonwealth” status. Some nationalists called the vote a farce”.
Four nationalists — Lolita Lebrón, Irvin Flores Rodríguez, Rafael Cancel Miranda and Andres Figueroa Cordero — carried out their attack in D.C., on March 1, 1954, from the gallery of the House of Representatives. Five congressmen — Republicans Alvin Bentley and Ben Jensen, and Democrats Clifford Davis, George Hyde Fallon and Kenneth Roberts — were injured by gunfire. Lebrón received a 50-year sentence, while the men received 75 years in prison for attempted murder and other charges. President Jimmy Carter commuted all four sentences during his presidential term in the late 1970s.
According to the administration, the action was intended as both a "humanitarian gesture to the international community" and to pave the way for the release of four Americans being detained in Cuba. Cancel Miranda, the last surviving member of the group, died in March 2020. He continued to campaign for the independence of Puerto Rico and participated in marches and demonstrations after his release. In 2016, he told a New York Times reporter, "62 years later I'm not sorry.” Bullet holes from the attack are still present in the chamber.
March 1, 1971: Bombing in protest of US military in Laos
Leftist militants, called the Weather Underground, claimed responsibility for a bomb placed in a men's washroom one floor below the Senate chamber on March 1, 1971. The group said the bombing was in protest of the expansion of the US military presence in Southeast Asia, specifically to Laos. The bomb threat was phoned in overnight, 30 minutes before detonation. Given the time of day, no one was injured in the blast, but damage was estimated at $300,000. Several members of the Weather Underground served prison time for other attacks and activities, no one was ever arrested for the 1971 bombing.
November 7, 1983: Armed Resistance Unit bombing
A bomb planted just outside the Senate on November 7, 1983 exploded but did not lead to any casualties. It blew out a wall, damaged five paintings and blew doors off hinges outside the office of Senate majority leader Robert Byrd, AP reported then. The estimated damage was $250,000. The bombing was called in ahead of time by a group identifying itself as the “Armed Resistance Unit”.
The group was protesting US military involvement in Lebanon and Grenada. Seven people said to be affiliated with the group, many who identified as Marxists or communists, were arrested beginning in 1985 for the Capitol Building bomb attack as well as a Brinks truck robbery and bombings at military installations.
What happened at the Capitol on January 6?
The chaos inside the US Capitol on Wednesday came after the police force that protects the legislative complex was overrun by a mob of Trump supporters in what law enforcement officials called a catastrophic failure to prepare.
While events such as a presidential inauguration involve detailed security plans by numerous security agencies, far less planning went into protecting the joint session of Congress that convened on Wednesday to ratify the results of the 2020 presidential election, the officials said.
That lapse came despite glaring warning signs of potential violence by hardline supporters of President Donald Trump, who are inflamed by Trump’s claims of a stolen election and hope to block the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Reuters reported.
Who handled the security?
Security initially was handled almost entirely alone by the US Capitol Police, a 2,000-member force under the control of Congress and dedicated to protecting the 126-acre Capitol Grounds. For reasons that remained unclear as of early Thursday, other arms of the US federal government’s vast security apparatus did not arrive in force for hours as rioters besieged the seat of Congress.
The Capitol is a short walk from where Trump in a speech railed against the election just before the riot began, calling the vote an egregious assault on our democracy and urging his supporters to walk down to the Capitol in a Save America March.
Were there threats earlier?
The counting of the electoral votes of the presidential election by Congress, normally a formality, was preceded by weeks of threats in social media that planned pro-Trump protests could descend into violence. Despite those rumblings of danger, the Capitol Police force did not request advance help to secure the building from other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, according to one senior official, Reuters reported. And National Guard reinforcements, summoned by the city’s mayor, were not mobilised until more than an hour after protesters had first breached the barricades.
In stark contrast, those agencies were aggressively deployed by the Trump administration during last summer’s police brutality protests in Washington and elsewhere in the United States.
Is the Capitol difficult to defend?
The officers are trained to keep protesters off the Capitol’s marble outdoor steps, to protect the complex like a citadel. But there are so many windows and doors in the 19th-century complex that it is difficult to defend them all, said Terrance Gainer, who served as Capitol Police chief and later as the US Senates Sergeant at Arms, its chief law enforcement officer, Reuters reported. Once they lost the steps, they lost the doors and windows, Gainer said.
What did the protesters do?
As hordes of rioters streamed into the heart of American government, they could be seen on camera roaming freely through the historic halls swinging from a balcony, rifling through the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even sitting in the chair reserved for the Senate’s presiding officer. One rioter was captured by a photographer casually shouldering a large Confederate battle flag as he strode inside the Capitol.
When did voting end?
US lawmakers returned to the Chamber on Thursday and formally certified Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election - clearing the way for his inauguration on January 20.
Republican Vice-President Mike Pence certified the Electoral College count of 306 electors in favour of the Democrat against 232 in favour of outgoing Republican President Donald Trump.
The tally followed a joint session of the House and Senate that was interrupted by supporters of the president who stormed the US Capitol, bringing violence and mayhem to the seat of government.
Will there be a smooth transition of power?
President Donald Trump has said there "will be an orderly transition on January 20th" after Congress concluded the electoral vote count certifying President-elect Joe Biden's victory and after a day of violence when his supporters stormed the US Capitol.
Trump said in a statement tweeted by his social media director Dan Scavino, "Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th."
He added: "I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it's only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again."
Trump's account is currently locked by Twitter.
Highlights of what happened earlier
4 died as Trump supporters stormed Capitol
Four people died as supporters of President Donald Trump violently occupied the US Capitol.
Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee said the dead on Wednesday included a woman who was shot by the US Capitol Police, as well as three others who died in “medical emergencies.”
Police said both law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the hourslong occupation of the Capitol building before it was cleared Wednesday evening by law enforcement.
The woman who died was reportedly a dedicated Donald Trump backer and air force veteran who was among a throng of supporters of the president that invaded the US legislature, AFP reported.
Rioters forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol. Some besieged the House of Representatives chamber while lawmakers were inside, banging on its doors and forcing suspension of the certification debate. Security officers piled furniture against the chamber's door and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers and others escape.
Police struggled for more than three hours after the invasion to clear the Capitol of Trump supporters before declaring the building secure shortly after 5.30pm. (2230 GMT).
Violence never wins, freedom wins: Pence
As Congress gavelled back into session after violence and chaos to resume the process of certifying Joe Biden's presidential election victory, Vice President Mike Pence insisted that ‘violence never wins’.
"As we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy," Vice President Mike Pence said as he reopened the Senate session.
"To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins, freedom wins," Pence added. "And this is still the people's house."
The House of Representatives also resumed its session, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling lawmakers they will stay "as long as it takes" to finish the certification of Electoral College votes, the final formal step affirming Biden's win.
"We must and we will show to the country, and indeed to the world, that we will not be diverted from our duty, that we will respect our responsibility to the constitution and to the American people."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress' certification of President-elect Joe Biden's election win will show the world it won't back down.
Pelosi made her comments as the House reconvened after being shut down for hours Wednesday by unruly pro-Trump protesters. She said that every four years the ritual provides an example to the world of American democracy.
Pelosi said: "Despite the shameful actions of today, we will still do so, we will be part of a history that shows the world what America is made of."
New York sends 1,000 troops to Washington
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is sending 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard to Washington, D.C., to help “the peaceful transition of presidential power.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, said 1,000 troops would be sent for up to two weeks at the request of US National Guard officials. It comes after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters rampaged through the US Capitol.
Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday: “For 244 years, the cornerstone of our democracy has been the peaceful transfer of power, and New York stands ready to help ensure the will of the American people is carried out, safely and decisively.”
They will join law enforcement from Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey who are also coming to D.C.’s aid.
Obama says Capitol violence a 'moment of shame'
Former President Barack Obama says history will rightly remember the violence at the Capitol as a moment of great dishonour and shame for the nation.
Angry supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power.
Obama say the violence was “incited by a sitting president” who baselessly lied about the outcome of the presidential election. He has convinced his supporters that he lost the election to President-elect Joe Biden only because Democrats cheated, a false claim.
Obama says it should not have come as a surprise, and that for two months “a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth.”
He says “their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we’re seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo.”
Twitter suspends Trump account
In an unprecedented step, Twitter suspended the account of President Donald Trump for 12 hours Wednesday after he repeatedly posted false accusations about the election after his supporters stormed the Capitol following a Trump rally.
Police said at least one person was shot inside the Capitol" their condition was not immediately known.
The district's police chief said at least 13 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the pro-Trump protests on Wednesday.
How did pro-Trump supporters react?
Pro-Trump demonstrators massed outside statehouses across the country, forcing evacuations in at least two states. In St. Paul, Minnesota, cheers rang out from demonstrators in reaction to the news that supporters of President Donald Trump had stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Hundreds of mostly unmasked people people gathered outside capitols on Wednesday with Trump flags and “Stop the Steal” signs. In Georgia and Oklahoma, some demonstrators carried guns.
New Mexico state police evacuated staff from a statehouse building that includes the governor’s and secretary of state’s offices as a precaution shortly after hundreds of flag-waving supporters arrived in a vehicle caravan and on horseback. A spokesperson for the governor4s office says there was no indication of threats at the statehouse.
The staff of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox was sent home as several hundred pro-Trump demonstrators rallied outside the Capitol, though the demonstration remained relatively calm. A brief scuffle between pro-Trump demonstrators, who included members of the Proud Boys, and counterprotesters broke out in Columbus, Ohio, but there was no immediate threat to the Capitol.
Democrats win control of Senate
Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff has won his Senate runoff election.
His victory gives Democrats control of the Senate for the opening of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency. Democrats needed to win both of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections on Tuesday to claim the Senate majority.
The 33-year-old Ossoff defeated 71-year-old Republican David Perdue, who held the seat for the past six years and had the strong support of President Donald Trump.
Trump had called on Georgia Republicans to swarm to the polls for the Republican Senate candidates even as he warned, without evidence, of the prospect of widespread voter fraud.
Biden held his own rally Monday to urge his coalition to turn out for Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist.
In the other race, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
With the two Democratic victories, the Senate will have a 50-50 seat split between the parties. But the vice president casts tie-breaking votes, and that will be Democrat Kamala Harris.
Democrats already control the House, and adding the Senate will make it more difficult for Republicans to block Biden’s agenda, along with his Cabinet picks and judicial nominations.
Pence, long a loyal aide to the president, defied Trump earlier Wednesday, tell him he didn’t have the power to discard electoral votes that will make Democrat Joe Biden the next president on Jan. 20. Trump had publicly called on Pence to overturn the will of the voters, but Pence’s constitutional role in the process was only ceremonial.
Trump earlier encouraged his supporters occupying the U.S. Capitol to “remain peaceful,” but he did not call for them to disperse. He held a rally earlier Wednesday in which he repeated his false claims that President-elect Joe Biden had won the election through voter fraud.
He urged his supporters to march to the Capitol, telling them to “get rid of the weak Congress people” and saying, “get the weak ones get out” this is the time for strength.”