WASHINGTON — Thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters rioted and stormed the Capitol on Wednesday morning at the president’s instruction, with supporters breaking through barricades of police officers and breaching the building’s doors, forcing an evacuation of Congress while it was in the process of certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
The chaotic scene at the Capitol was unprecedented. Rioters waving Trump flags and banners ostensibly in support of police openly clashed with law enforcement officials, who seemed unprepared for the onslaught of people that the president has been promising for days now.
Members of Congress said tear gas was being dispersed inside of the Capitol building, with members being asked to grab the gas masks below their chairs. As Capitol Police told members to prepare to relocate to their cloakrooms, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen yelled, “Call Trump! Call your friend!”
Police began evacuating members of Congress from the House around 2:40 p.m. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that Federal Protective Service and Secret Service have been requested to provide assistance to Capitol Hill Police, and they are fulfilling that request.
The mayor of Washington, DC, ordered a 6 p.m. curfew in response to the violence.
The violence from Trump’s supporters had been brewing openly for weeks on the pro-Trump internet, where, on forums like the r/TheDonald subreddit, supporters have been publicly promising violence against lawmakers, police, and journalists if Congress did not comply with Trump’s demand to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.
Just after 2:15 p.m., the House and Senate recessed, and Capitol Police locked the doors to leave the House gallery, according to pool reports. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota reportedly yelled, “This is because of you,” apparently in reference to his Republican colleagues objecting to certifying electoral results.
Trump had urged his supporters to “peacefully” march towards the Capitol building, falsely claiming that Democrats were stealing the election.
“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” he told supporters gathered in front of the White House. “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated. Lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building. To peacefully, patriotically make your voices heard.”