U.S. Capitol was placed under lockdown and Vice President Mike Pence left the floor of Congress as hundreds of protesters swarmed past barricades surrounding the building where lawmakers were debating Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Protesters rallying in support of Donald Trump tried to push past police barriers at the U.S. Capitol after the president said he’d “never concede” his election loss and some congressional employees were initially told to evacuate following bomb threats.
Thousands of people streamed past barricades set up around the Capitol complex on Wednesday afternoon while lawmakers meeting inside debated the Electoral College’s vote giving Biden the presidency.
Loud booms were heard around the legislative building as police in riot gear undertook crowd control measures, including the use of pepper spray.
At the same time, a notice sent to staffers Wednesday at the Cannon House Office Building, across the street from the Capitol, told employees to “move in a safe manner to the exits” and “proceed immediately to your designated assembly area” following the bomb threats. The notice was later retracted.
As of 3 p.m. ET, ABC News cited reports that protesters had gotten to the third floor of the building, where they were seen going door to door and shouting, “Where the —- are they?”
Though lawmakers were spirited away, they began to react. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted, “This is what the president has caused today … this insurrection,” a response to an earlier rally in which President Donald Trump exhorted supporters to continue to back his case for a stolen election.
Rep. Karen Bass, also on ABC, said, “This is just shocking.” The Capitol Police were outnumbered, she said, and the National Guard would surely need to be summoned to help in clearing “this embarrassment to our country.”
Any other country this was happening, it would be called a coup,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger. He also accused Trump of spinning up the tensions resulting in the siege.
The developments come on a day of already high tension in Washington. Thousands of people have gathered in the city, including at a park south of the White House, in support of Trump as Congress prepared to seal Biden’s victory in the November election. In addition, the results from two runoff elections in Georgia suggest Democrats may retake the Senate, adding to frustrations felt by the president’s backers.
Leaning on claims of rigged vote, Trump addressed his supporters near the White House for over an hour, exhorting them to “stop the steal” and make a stand for his presidency.
“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened, radical-left Democrats,” Trump said at the rally. “We will never give up; we will never concede.”
After his speech, a crowd began marching up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Among the leaders of the march was Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who has long promoted Trump on his InfoWars show and podcast.
At least three separate pro-Trump rallies are taking place in Washington, and many local businesses boarded up their doors and windows in anticipation of possible violence. Mayor Muriel Bowser called out unarmed National Guard troops to bolster a heavy police presence.
Trump supporters waving flags and wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats at a morning rally in the Ellipse adjacent to the White House said they were there because they believe Trump was being illegally denied a second term.