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President Donald Trump ordered National Guard troops to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and told supporters who overwhelmed Capitol Police and stormed the halls of Congress, forcing debate on Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College to be suspended, to go home.
“We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said in a video he tweeted more than two hours after a mob of supporters overtook the Capitol. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace, we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order.”
The president’s remarks followed a series of chaotic scenes that included lawmakers grabbing their gas masks and loud booms echoing across the complex, protesters rallying in support of the president rushing past police barriers at the Capitol, and Trump vowing that he’d “never concede” his election loss.
Capitol Police were seen providing aid to a bloodied woman lying on the floor in the Capitol building. The Associated Press said one person was shot. In addition, two suspicious packages were reported near the offices of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee offices.
As the turmoil unfolded, lawmakers fled the House chamber. Pence was evacuated from the Capitol just after 2 p.m. and debate over Biden’s victory was suspended. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, still a senator from California, is safe, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Dozens of Trump supporters were seen walking through portions of the closed Capitol -- as lawmakers hurriedly lined up to be escorted out of the House chamber by police and toward more secure areas. CNN showed what appeared to Capitol Police with guns drawn on the House floor after pushing a large piece of furniture in front of a door.
Peaceful protest is the right of every American but this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) January 6, 2021
During the evacuation, reporters could see several protesters spread-eagled on the floor outside the chamber being guarded by police officers with machine guns. The group was moved to another location in the complex.
Police reinforcements in riot gear undertook crowd control measures, including the use of pepper spray. Secret Service and federal police were being rushed to Capitol Hill following a request from Capitol police, according to a spokesman for Homeland Security Department.
LOOK: Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in front of the Capitol as police in riot gear deployed what appeared to be noise-flash diversionary devices pic.twitter.com/R2dnCP5eqa— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) January 6, 2021
After protesters broke into the Capitol, Trump urged his supporters via Twitter to “support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement” and “stay peaceful!”
But it was too late.
Trump had encouraged supporters to come to Washington to support his efforts to overturn the result of the election. The protests interrupted a debate over whether Electoral College votes Biden should be accepted from Arizona.
As Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona began to speak, officers in the House chamber began locking doors and telling members not to leave and that the building was about to go into lockdown. Senior lawmakers including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steve Scalise, the second-ranking Republican in the House, were all escorted out.
As debate resumed again, Representative Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, screamed “this is all because of you.” Then lawmakers were told they needed to stay in their seats, then that they should duck and cover and that tear gas had been released and they should put on gas masks that were under their seats.
Soon after, pounding on the main door to the House floor -- the door that the president enters when he delivers the State of the Union address -- grew louder and officers began to barricade it with any furniture they could find. From the other side, a protester began to smash glass in the door and the police drew their weapons and shouted “Back away or we’ll shoot!”
Before the Capitol was breached, 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 reports of a bomb threat. The notice was later retracted.
News of the violence reverberated on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 Index giving up about half its gain on the day in wake of the headlines. The gauge was up 0.8 per cent as of 3:29 p.m., after advancing as much as 1.5 per cent earlier on optimism of further fiscal stimulus under the Biden administration. Treasury yields also gave up some of their advance, with 10-year yields at 1.03 per cent after hitting 1.05 per cent earlier.
At the Pentagon, the Secretary of the Army said in a statement that “we are in close contact with local and federal law enforcement agencies to review potential additional support requirements for the D.C. National Guard.”
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 of the president’s backers.
Leaning on debunked theories of a rigged vote, Trump addressed a crowed of his supporters near the White House for more than 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. Earlier, Mayor Muriel Bowser called out unarmed National Guard troops to bolster a heavy police presence.
After the invasion of the Capitol, she ordered curfew to begin at 6 p.m.
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.
“The election was stolen and we have to do something to save the country,” said Colleen Murphy, 53, who traveled from Wisconsin for the rally. “I think Trump has a trump card up his sleeve.”
Sporadic violence between pro- and anti-Trump protesters occurred in Washington just after the November election, before all the states had certified their votes. Officials worry something similar could happen this week, especially if protesters from both sides confront one another on the streets.
While the counting of the Electoral College votes in Congress is largely symbolic, a group of Republican lawmakers had vowed to contest the results, delaying completion of the count into late Wednesday or even Thursday morning.
A 37-year-old woman from New Jersey named Lauren -- she declined to give her last name -- said she believes the November election was rigged by China’s Communist Party.
“I’m here to fight for the president,” she said. “The election was fraudulent.”
--With assistance from Anna Edgerton, Kriston Capps, Emma Kinery, Justin Sink, William Turton, Erik Wasson and Jennifer Epstein.