In unprecedented scenes, supporters of US President Donald Trump Wednesday stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. At least four people lost their lives in the ensuing violence and 52 people have been arrested so far.
Trump supporters tried to push past the officers and tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps. The police could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd to keep them back, even as the crowd shouted, “traitors”. The violence soon moved inside the Capitol building, with reports of firing at the premises.
The protests were allegedly triggered by Trump’s speech at a rally of his supporters on Wednesday afternoon in Washington where he had asked them to “never give up” the fight.
This marks the first attack on Capitol Hill in this century. The Capitol Complex has come under attack several times in the past, most recently in 1983 when a group, identifying itself as the Armed Resistance Unit with Communist leanings, planted a bomb just outside the Senate in protest of the US military’s involvement in Lebanon and Grenada.
Here is everything you need to know about the US Capitol Building.
US Capitol Building and Complex
According to the website of Architect of the Capitol (AOC), which maintains the Capitol Complex, the five square kilometre Capitol Complex includes the Capitol, Capitol Visitor Center, Senate Office Buildings, House Office Buildings, US Supreme Court, Library of Congress, US Botanic Garden and Capitol Campus grounds.
The Capitol Building serves as the meeting place of the US Congress, housing the Senate (in north wing) and the House of Representatives (in south wing). It also includes the offices of congressional leadership and is used for ceremonies of national importance such as presidential inaugurations and the lying in state of eminent personalities. The building also houses a museum of American art and history and is a popular site among visitors.
The construction of the US Capitol began in 1793. The Capitol has been damaged, reconstructed, expanded and restored several times in history. The original building was finished in 1826. The most recent change to the Capitol was done in 2008 with the addition of the Capitol Visitor Center.
The Rotunda is a large, domed, circular room located in the center of the US Capitol. It stands 180 feet, three inches tall and is 96 feet in diameter. The Rotunda has been considered the most suitable place to lay down the remains of their citizens in state (in the case of government officials and military officers) or in honour (in the case of private citizens). The room also displays paintings and sculptures depicting significant people and events in US history.
The building’s dome, which is made of 8,909,200 pounds of cast-iron, was constructed between 1855 and 1866. It has a total of 108 windows. A statue of a female figure sits atop the dome which is referred to as the Statue of Freedom.
The security of the complex is entrusted with the US Capitol Police, a special unit of police force charged with protecting Congress’ members, employees, visitors, and all facilities. Each chamber of the building has a sergeant who serves as the chief law enforcement officer and protocol officer. The Office of Security Programs looks over the security operations and supports US Capitol Police.
National Statuary Hall used to be the chambers for the House of Representatives, called the Old Hall of the House. The hall holds 100 of the Capitol’s collection of statues of notable citizens in US history, two per state.