The U.S. Capitol was placed under lockdown and Vice President Mike Pence left the floor of Congress as hundreds of protesters swarmed past barricades surrounding the building where lawmakers were debating Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
In a series of chaotic scenes that included lawmakers grabbing their gas masks and loud booms echoing across the Capitol complex, protesters rallying in support of Donald Trump overwhelmed police barriers at the U.S. Capitol after the president said he’d “never concede” his election loss and some congressional employees were initially told to evacuate following bomb threats.
Lawmakers fled the House chamber. Pence was evacuated from the Capitol, according to CNN, and debate over Biden’s victory was suspended. Dozens of Trump supporters were seen walking through portions of the closed Capitol — as lawmakers lined up to be escorted out of the House chamber by police and toward more secure areas.
Police reinforcements in riot gear undertook crowd control measures, including the use of pepper spray.
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.
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 the bomb threats. The notice was later retracted.
High Tensions in Washington
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 felt by the president’s backers.
Leaning on debunked theories of a rigged vote, Trump addressed his supporters near the White House for over an hour, exhorting them to “stop the steal” and make a stand for his presidency.