Background: How a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol

How a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers debated the final certification of the presidential election


U.S. Capitol Police evacuate journalists and House press staff members from the building

A uniformed officer looks at a group of around six journalists and press members inside an elevator.

Hundreds of U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters converged on the Capitol, home to both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, in a bid to overturn his election defeat, occupying the symbol of American democracy and forcing Congress to temporarily postpone a session to certify President-elect Biden’s victory.

Rioters forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the Capitol, where they roamed the hallways and scuffled with police officers.

Here’s how events unfolded.

Midday: Trump addresses rally

Trump stands on a stage in front of several American flags, with the White House in the background. A screen to his left says “Save America March” and a crowd of Trump supporters is in the foreground

Trump, a Republican who has refused to concede defeat to Biden, a Democrat, has falsely claimed that the vote was rigged. He had urged his supporters multiple times to come to Washington for a rally on Wednesday, the day the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were scheduled to certify the results of the Electoral College officially declaring Joe Biden the next president.

Thousands of the president’s supporters turned out. Speaking at what could be his last rally as the sitting president, Trump exhorted them “to fight” and march on the Capitol building to pressure their elected officials to reject the results of the election he lost.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and Congressmen and women,” Trump told the crowd, speaking against the backdrop of the White House.

Around 12:50 p.m.: Supporters march to the Capitol

About 50 minutes into the speech, some of his supporters, waving Trump flags, began heading toward Capitol Hill, where bloody chaos ensued inside one of the most recognizable symbols of American democracy.

A mob of angry Trump supporters quickly overran barricades outside the Capitol and began confronting police on the steps of the Capitol while a joint committee of Congress was still debating within.

In the photo, police officers on the left hold on to metal barriers while a crowd of supporters tries to push through from the right

With a pitched confrontation between Trump supporters and police underway, a pipe bomb was found and detonated at the nearby headquarters of the Republican National Committee. Another was recovered from the Democratic National Committee headquarters, prompting evacuations of several federal buildings around the capital.

A U.S. Capitol police officer shoots pepper spray at a Trump supporter attempting to enter the Capitol building

An officer in an all-black uniform and mask shoots a stream of pepper spray at a Trump supporter attempting to enter the building through a window. The supporter stands on a wooden display desk and shields his face with his hand.

Breaching security

Outmatched, police could no longer hold back the mob at the Capitol building in what law enforcement officials have described as one of the gravest security lapses in recent U.S. history.

Rioters broke into the building, smashing through windows, forcing open doors and facing off against police in tense standoffs inside the halls of Congress.

Around 2:15 p.m.: Evacuation

As the mob breached the Capitol building, Congress quickly suspended their session and police whisked Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Congressional leadership to safety. Senate staffers reacted quickly to save the electoral college ballots, which were to be certified by Congress, affirming Joe Biden as the next president.

Inside the House, rioters banged on the doors of the chamber with lawmakers still inside. Security officers piled furniture against the chamber’s door and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers, journalists and others to escape.

Rioters roam the halls

Police confront some of the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building

As hordes of rioters streamed into the heart of American government, they could be seen on camera roaming freely through the historic halls – swinging from a balcony, rifling through the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even sitting in the chair reserved for the Senate’s presiding officer.

Calls to quell the violence

As violence continued to roil the Capitol, Biden called on Trump to demand “an end to this siege” and tell his supporters to stand down and leave the building peacefully.

The president later tweeted:

These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!

The tweet and a video released by the president were shortly removed by Twitter and Facebook, who both temporarily restricted the president’s access to his accounts on their platforms.

5:30 p.m.: Order restored

A group of armed ATF officers wearing helmets and vests and several people in suits stand in a Capitol building hallway. Police with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) maintain security in the halls of the Senate in the U.S. Capitol

National Guard reinforcements joined Washington D.C. police in responding to the crisis, but weren’t mobilized until more than an hour after rioters had first breached the barricades.

Police struggled for more than three hours after the invasion to clear the Capitol of Trump supporters before declaring the building secure shortly after 5:30 p.m.

Washington D.C.’s police chief later said that four people had died and 52 had been arrested during the violence. The dead included a woman shot and killed by Capitol police inside the building, Washington Police Chief Robert Contee said. He didn’t say what had prompted officers to shoot the woman.

Police patrol as the surroundings of the U.S. Capitol are empty during a curfew

Three police cars and two officers on a road near the U.S. Capitol building at night time. A barricade is on the left and no other people are visible.

8:00 p.m.: Congress reconvenes

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reconvenes a joint session of Congress to certify Joe Biden as the next U.S. president

After the chaos on Capitol Hill, a shaken Congress resumed its work late on Wednesday certifying Biden’s Electoral College win.

U.S. senators sit in the House chamber, a large room with blue flooring and benches arranged in concentric semi-circles facing a central podium where Nancy Pelosi sits. Several people sit in the press gallery above the podium.

In certifying Biden’s win, longtime Trump allies such as Vice President Pence and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell ignored the president’s pleas for intervention, while the violence at the Capitol spurred several White House aides to quit.

Still, several Republican members of the House and Senate objected to certifying the results, drawing strong rebukes from their colleagues, including an impassioned speech by Senator Mitt Romney who called the invasion of the Capitol “an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.”

Senator Mitt Romney addressed lawmakers from the Senate floor.

He singled out his colleagues saying, “Those who choose to continue to support [President Trump’s] dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy.”

As the sometimes tense debate stretched into the early hours of Thursday, the Senate and the House of Representatives rejected two objections to the tally and finally certified the final Electoral College count, with Biden receiving 306 votes and Trump 232 votes.

The destructive and shocking images at the Capitol of what other Republicans also called an “insurrection” filled television screens across the United States and around the world, leaving a deep stain on Trump’s presidency and legacy as his tenure nears its end.

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