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US Capitol Hill siege, explained: What happened, who was involved and is Trump to blame?

US Capitol Hill Siege: An armed and angry mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with police on Wednesday as Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win. What led to the siege, and why is Trump being blamed?

By: Explained Desk |
Updated: January 22, 2021 2:39:19 pm
us capitol hill siege, us capitol hill siege protest, us capitol hill siege news, capitol hill building, capitol hill building protest, donald trump, joe biden, capitol Hill, DC protestsAn explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Leah Millis)

US President Donald Trump’s relentless efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election took a dangerous turn Wednesday, when an armed and angry mob of his supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with police just as Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win.

A woman was fatally shot in the violence that ensued as pro-Trump protestors breached barricades and advanced into the halls of the Capitol building, smashing windows and brawled with police officers in what is widely being considered one of the worst security breaches in US history.

The pandemonium appears to have deepened the divide within the Republican Party, with several leaders pointing a finger at Trump for inciting violence by urging his supporters to reject the results of the presidential election.

So, what happened at the US Capitol?

The Capitol in Washington DC was placed under lockdown Wednesday after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the historic building and wreaked havoc in an attempt to stall the certification of the election results.

A raucous group of demonstrators — many of whom were waving ‘Trump 2020’ flags and wearing T-shirts and hats with the president’s signature ‘Keep America Great’ tagline printed — entered the second-floor lobby of the building right outside the Senate chamber, the doors of which were being guarded by law enforcement officials.

The mob managed to get past the guards and enter the Senate chamber, where just moments earlier the election results were being certified. According to the Guardian, one of the rioters was seen climbing up on the dias and yelling, “Trump won that election.”

The protesters roamed through the halls freely, some even entering and looting the offices used by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers. But the lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives had already been evacuated.

The Trump supporters stopped to take photographs and film themselves as they made their way around the building. Videos show people breaking windows and pushing past barricades to forcefully enter rooms and offices in the Capitol.

Four hours after the breach, officials announced that the demonstrators had been cleared out of the building and the Capitol was secure. Senators were escorted back into the Senate chamber to complete the certification of electoral college votes.

us capitol hill siege, us capitol hill siege protest, us capitol hill siege news, capitol hill building, capitol hill building protest, donald trump, joe biden, capitol Hill, DC protests Police keep a watch on demonstrators who tried to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP/PTI Photo)

At least four people died in the attack, including one woman who was shot in the chest and killed inside the Capitol building, CNN reported. According to Washington DC police, another woman and two men died in separate medical emergencies.

But what were the incidents that led up to the siege?

Hours before the rioters stormed the US Capitol, huge crowds of Trump supporters had already filled the streets to protest against the certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Many had even camped out overnight to catch a glimpse of President Trump and his top advisors and family members at the ‘Save America Rally’ that took place on Wednesday at the Ellipse, a park near the White House.

Trump spoke for around an hour, following which thousands began marching towards the Capitol.

Meanwhile, lawmakers had begun to gather for a joint session in the House of Representatives to count the electoral votes. But when some of the demonstrators began sparring with the police and climbing the walls around the Capitol building, officials ordered the evacuation of the Library of Congress, Madison Building and Cannon House Office Building.

Police attempted to retaliate with tear gas, but were heavily outnumbered and overwhelmed by the mob. After one demonstrator managed to break a window and another the main doors that led up to the House Chamber, the crowd began entering the building in huge numbers.

us capitol hill siege, us capitol hill siege protest, us capitol hill siege news, capitol hill building, capitol hill building protest, donald trump, joe biden, capitol Hill, DC protests Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the West wall of the the US Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Why is Trump being blamed for the violence?

Several lawmakers, including members of the Republican Party, have blamed Trump for the violence that broke out in and around the Capitol. At the rally held in Ellipse park, lawmakers and critics have pointed out, the president directed his followers to head to Capitol Hill.

“And after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down…to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” he said. “And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

He repeated his claims that the election had been “rigged” by “radical democrats” and the “fake news media”, urging his supporters not to accept the results of the election. “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he said.

The President faced backlash yet again when he shared a message on social media and appeared to justify the violent mob’s actions while telling his supporters, “it’s time to go home now”. “I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us,” he said in the video, which has since been removed. “It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side.”

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“But you have to go home now,” he said. “We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time, there’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us. From me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home, we love you, you’re very special. You’ve seen what happens, you’ve seen the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace.”

us capitol hill siege, us capitol hill siege protest, us capitol hill siege news, capitol hill building, capitol hill building protest, donald trump, joe biden, capitol Hill, DC protests People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

What happened after the Capitol Hill attack?

Soon after law enforcement officials were able to clear the building of rioters, the lawmakers — shaken but undeterred — reconvened the joint session to count electoral votes from the presidential election and officially confirm Joe Biden’s victory.

But the damage had already been done. Following the mayhem that ensued within the halls of the Capitol, more than a dozen house Democrats renewed calls for Trump’s impeachment before inauguration day.

The incident also laid bare the fissions within the Republican Party, as several conservative lawmakers, too, called for Trump’s resignation. Among them is Vermont’s Republican Governor Phil Scott, who demanded that Trump either resign himself or be removed from the White House by force.

Most notably, at least two top White House officials have announced their resignation in the wake of the violent protests and several others are considering resigning, CNN reported. Stephanie Grisham was the first to formally resign as chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump on Wednesday.

“It has been an honor to serve the country in the White House. I am very proud to have been a part of Mrs. Trump’s mission to help children everywhere, and proud of the many accomplishments of this administration,” she said in a statement.

The White House social secretary, Rickie Niceta, also resigned, as did a deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Matthews, two sources told Reuters.

Several others, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien and his deputy, Matthew Pottinger may also soon resign, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

On Thursday, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the public emergency in the country’s capital for another 15 days.

How have lawmakers reacted to the incident?

Lawmakers from both parties, many of whom were present in the Capitol on Wednesday, condemned the violent uprising, calling it “despicable” and “unacceptable” and called for peace.

“What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder,” President-elect Joe Biden tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence, who recently defied President Trump’s demand to unilaterally reject Electoral College votes that will make Joe Biden the next President, also took to social media to urge rioters to leave the Capitol building.

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