A woman was shot and killed as thousands of angry Trump supporters stormed their way into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, assaulting police, smashing windows, ransacking offices and forcing Congress to evacuate as they halted lawmakers temporarily from certifying the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden.
The female demonstrator, identified as Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit of California, was shot in the neck inside the Capitol, apparently by a police officer. She died later at a hospital.
Several police officers were reported injured in clashes with protesters as officers used flash-bang devices, tear gas and pepper spray to gain control in the hours-long confrontation. Police arrested at least 52 people.
The unprecedented scene saw lawmakers with gas masks huddling in the locked House and Senate chambers with aides while demonstrators pounded on the doors and roamed the halls of the Capitol unchallenged.
In the House chamber, plain-clothes officers with guns drawn barricaded the doors with furniture and pointed their weapons through broken windows at rioters trying to get inside. Officers told the trapped lawmakers to lay down on the floor until the danger had passed.
After several hours of clashes and lawlessness, national guard troops from the District, Virginia and Maryland were called in to restore order. District Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a citywide curfew from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday.
The U.S. Capitol hadn’t been the target of a mass-group attack since 1814, when British troops burned it.
Mr. Biden, who will be inaugurated in two weeks, called it an “insurrection” in a nationally televised address.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” Mr. Biden said. “Our democracy is under unprecedented assault. I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”
Lawmakers returned to the shattered Capitol later Wednesday night to move ahead with the business of counting the Electoral College results, although the timing of completing that process wasn’t clear.”To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win,” said Vice President Mike Pence, serving as president of the Senate. “Violence never wins. Freedom wins.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate “will not be intimidated.”
“We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We will not bow to lawlessness or intimidation. We are back at our posts. We will discharge our duty under the Constitution. We are going to do it tonight.”
When the House resumed debate at 9 p.m., lawmakers were noticeably subdued, compared with their partisan rancor earlier in the day.
At least five Republican lawmakers reversed course after the rioting and said they would no longer object to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes — Sens. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Braun of Indiana, Steve Daines of Montana and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.
“I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness,” Ms. McMorris Rodgers said.
Ms. Loeffler said the violence “forced me to reconsider.”
Many blamed Mr. Trump for inciting the chaos, and criticized him for failing to call off his supporters quickly enough after the violence began. There were calls for his Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office as unfit; CBS News and ABC News reported that some Cabinet secretaries were discussing it. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, announced that she would file impeachment articles.
“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” former President George W. Bush said. “I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”
The president did eventually post a one-minute video on Twitter that urged the crowd to “go home,” but he also repeated his claims that the election was “stolen” by Democrats.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube took down the post, saying it posed a risk of inciting violence. Twitter also locked the president’s account for 12 hours. Facebook, too, temporarily blocked his account.
Two White House aides resigned after the episode — Stephanie Grisham, a top adviser to first lady Melania Trump, and deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews. Ms. Matthews said the country needs “a peaceful transfer of power.”
More resignations are expected.
Mr. Trump rejected any responsibility for the chaos that unfolded, nor did he condemn the violence.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” the president tweeted. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
That was a certainty.
“It has been 245 years and no president has ever failed to concede or agree to leave office after the Electoral College has voted,” Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, said on NBC. “I think what we’re seeing today is a result of that — a result of convincing people that somehow Congress was going to overturn the results of this election, a result of suggesting he wouldn’t leave office. Those are very, very dangerous things. This will be remembered and this will be part of his legacy.”
The violence and destruction erupted shortly after Mr. Trump had fired up tens of thousands of supporters at a “Save America” rally near the White House to protest the congressional certification of Mr. Biden’s victory on Wednesday.
During his speech, the president called on Mr. Pence repeatedly to stop the certification, an authority that Mr. Pence said he does not have as president of the Senate.
For weeks, the president had encouraged his supporters to come to Washington on Wednesday to protest the vote-counting, predicting the demonstrations would be “wild.”
“This mob was inspired by a president who cannot accept defeat,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat.
After the president recited his lengthy claims the election had been stolen from him and his supporters, he urged the crowd to march to the Capitol, slightly more than a mile away from the rally site.
As the rally was ending, a joint session of Congress was starting at the Capitol to certify Mr. Biden’s victory, the final mandated step in the election process before Inauguration Day. Republicans objected to Arizona’s electoral votes, and lawmakers began debating in both chambers whether to certify the state’s results.
Mr. McConnell, who has angered the president by refusing to object to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes, told his colleagues that their duty under the Constitution was clear.
“The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” Mr. McConnell said. “If we overrule them, it will damage our Republic forever.”
Minutes later, all hell broke loose.
Demonstrators who had been fighting with police at security perimeters around the Capitol finally overwhelmed the 2,000-member Capitol police force and began streaming into the building.
As Mr. Lankford was speaking on the floor about Arizona’s votes, colleagues interrupted him and the Senate suddenly went into recess — but not before a quick-thinking aide seized the envelopes containing the Electoral College certificates.
Mr. Pence left the chamber.
In the hallways, Trump supporters waving Trump flags and wearing Make America Great Again hats were in control as they roamed in search of lawmakers.
“Where the f—- are they?” one man shouted.
“If we don’t get justice, this will never stop,” another demonstrator yelled.
Some of them eventually breached the Senate chamber, after lawmakers had evacuated. A demonstrator sat in the chair of the presiding officer on the dais of the Senate.
“Trump won that election!” he shouted.
At some point during the disturbances, the shooting of Mrs. Babbitt occurred as demonstrators were trying to break into an office inside the Capitol. A video of the chaotic scene in a hallway adorned with historic portraits depicts the sound of a gunshot, and then a woman slumping to the floor as others quickly come to her aid while she bled profusely.
A New Jersey man told WUSA, a Washington CBS affiliate, that he witnessed the shooting. He said as they stormed the chambers, a number of police and secret service were yelling at them to “get back, get down, and get out of the way.”
“She didn’t heed the call and as we kind of reached up to grab people and pull them back, they shot her in the neck,” he said. “She fell back on me and started saying, ‘it’s fine. it’s cool’ and then she started moving weird and blood was coming out of her neck.”
Washington police are investigating the fatal shooting.
Multiple federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service were dispatched to the Capitol. Officers with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives swept the floor of the building for explosive devices. Former Attorney General William P. Barr did not mince words in his response to the chaos.
“The violence at the Capitol building is outrageous, and it is despicable,” he said. “Federal agencies should move immediately to disperse this.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican and one of the most prominent objectors to the Electoral College results, said protesters should face consequences for storming the Capitol.
“Violence is always unacceptable. Even when passions run high. Anyone engaged in violence — especially against law enforcement — should be fully prosecuted,” Mr. Cruz tweeted.
Police also evacuated the Cannon House office building, while some lawmakers and staffers sheltered in place.
Democratic lawmakers who had sheltered inside the House chamber blamed those across the aisle who were objecting to the electoral count.
“Call Trump! Call your friend!” Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, yelled, according to multiple reporters inside the chamber.
Rep. Michael Waltz, Florida Republican, said tear gas has been deployed inside the building and lawmakers have been given masks as they’re being moved to another location.
“This is despicable. This is not who we are as a country,” he said on Fox News as he evacuated the chamber.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger said the breach of the U.S. Capitol amounted to a “coup attempt.”
The Illinois Republican tweeted out the comment as images of Trump’s supporters infiltrating the Capitol building splashed across the television screen.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican, said while sheltering in his House office that the developments were “banana republic crap.”
“We have got to stop this,” Mr. Gallagher said. “Mr. President — you have got to stop this. You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off. This is bigger than you. It’s bigger than any member of Congress.”
He blamed the objectors to the Electoral College count for spurring on protesters.
“This is the cost of this effort. This is the cost of countenancing an effort by Congress to overturn the election and telling thousands of people that there is a legitimate shot of overturning the election today — even though you know that is not true,” Mr. Gallagher said.
• Jeff Mordock, Seth McLaughlin, David Sherfinski and Ryan Lovelace contributed to this story.
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