WASHINGTON — Hundreds of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as a joint session of Congress met to certify the results of the election Trump lost.
Capitol office buildings were evacuated, members of Congress sheltered in place, and the Capitol went on lockdown as Trump-supporting extremists clashed with law enforcement officials protecting the seat of the United States government.
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Vice President Mike Pence was quickly brought off the floor. HuffPost saw Trump supporters inside the Capitol building. Trump supporters set off a fire extinguisher just off the floor of the Senate.
The crowd, sporting a mix of Make America Great Again gear and Confederate flags, charged up the Capitol steps and rushed at police, as multiple videos from the scene show. They busted past barricades, ripped down fencing and cursed at members of law enforcement whom they mocked as “traitors.” Police fired pepper spray at the crowd, and later deployed flash-bang devices to get them to disperse.
“I’m sheltering in place in my office,” Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) tweeted. “The building next door has been evacuated. I can’t believe I have to write this.”
“This is a coup attempt,” tweeted Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
The rioters roamed the halls searching for legislators, screaming, “Where the fuck are they?”
The rioters also made it into the Senate chamber itself. One person stood at the dais and screamed, “Trump won that election!”
Multiple rioters posted photos or videos of themselves inside legislative offices. One man entered the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and took a seat at what NBC10 Boston’s Nia Hamm identified as the desk of Pelosi’s assistant.
There were reports of multiple injuries. Police confirmed one woman had been shot, though the circumstances of the shooting weren’t immediately clear.
As the House chamber was evacuated, HuffPost witnessed Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) instruct fellow lawmakers on how to use a gas mask.
The rioters eventually started banging on the main entrance of the House chamber. Cops barricaded the door with a bench, but the rioters continued banging on the door until the glass shattered. Someone then yelled “Gun!” and cops drew their firearms, aiming them at the door.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) tried to reason with with the insurrectionists, putting his safety at direct risk. About 10 minutes later, police removed everyone from the chamber and took them to a secure location. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) didn’t leave the chamber until everyone else was out.
The president eventually tweeted for the protesters to remain peaceful, but did not tell them to stop demonstrating.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” Trump tweeted shortly after 2:30 p.m. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
The president later ordered the National Guard to the Capitol building. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser also ordered a curfew starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday and ending at 6 a.m. Thursday.
The chaos began on Wednesday soon after Trump spoke to a crowd on the National Mall. At the end of a rambling speech, the president urged his supporters to march on the Capitol building.
For months, Trump and his strongest supporters have been fanning the flames with false claims of election fraud, convincing millions of believers that November’s presidential election was somehow stolen. Trump, in his speech, egged on his supporters and urged the crowd to march to the U.S. Capitol.
As one right-wing law enforcement informant told HuffPost, “really bad shit” happens when people who believe they’re acting as patriots defending the United States delude themselves into believing conspiracy theories about stolen elections.
“You have the president of the United States taking these people to the edge, and the second that something happens he’s going to turn around and go, ‘Well, I didn’t tell them to do that,’” Bill Fulton, a former FBI informant, told HuffPost in November. “It gives him that plausible deniability, and that’s what’s scary.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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