Tens of thousands of President Donald Trump’s diehard supporters swarmed Washington, DC on Wednesday to rally near the White House as Congress prepared to formally count the electoral votes, the final step before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated president.
Events took a violent turn in the afternoon as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, ripping down four security barriers in a bid to occupy the building. Thousands of riotous protesters didn’t shy away from engaging in skirmishes with the overwhelmed federal police, according to video posted to social media.
Hill staffers were also asked to evacuate the building in the face of the unprecedented occupation of the legislative chamber, according to one unconfirmed tweet.
However, Washington Post reporter Rebecca Tan said that the federal police were still holding the streaming throngs back. She also tweeted a short video clip of the angry crowds making their way toward the building, with some easily brushing aside a flimsy fence with an “Area Closed” sign.
“Hundreds of Trump supporters have stormed the barricades at the back of the Capitol and are marching toward the building,” Tan wrote.
In a separate tweet, Tan said that some attempted to push inside the building, but were met by a strong response by federal officers.
“Protesters are charging toward the Captiol [sic] steps. Some tried to scale the construction structures and have been tackled by police,” Tan wrote. “They want to enter the building and are making attempts at intervals. Capitol police trying to hold them back.”
Earlier in the morning, droves of demonstrators packed public spaces in the capital, with most people shunning face coverings despite the nationwide surge in coronavirus, although some wore American flags loosely draped around their faces or red “Make America Great Again” masks.
Clad in red, white, and blue apparel and blaring patriotic music from speakers, the crowd chanted “USA” and “Stop the Steal” while waving “Trump 2020” flags and other symbols of the MAGA movement.
Many of the demonstrators were supports of QAnon and other fringe movements, and said that they were prepared to fight to the bitter end to prevent the transition of power.
“Some of the people here, maybe they’re willing to say Trump lost if things don’t go the way we want them to today,” Georgia resident and DC protest participant Kevin Malone, 43, told the New York Times. “That’s not us. We can’t lose this country. If the Democrats win, there’s not going to be another fair, legal election in this country. We won’t have a democracy.”
Local officials have been bracing themselves for potential violence. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked that residents of the city avoid downtown, but warned that “we will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city.”
A number of the over 300 National Guard troops called up for the events also stood in camouflage next to white vans, while rows of local police were stationed at Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of Lafayette Square. On Tuesday evening, pro-Trump demonstrators including the neo-fascist Proud Boys group took part in skirmishes with police, who used pepper spray to break up the riotous assembly.
During his speech to followers at the elliptical park just behind the White House, outgoing President Trump continued to falsely insist that he did not lose the 2020 election, vowing that he “will never concede” to his victorious opponent.
“We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen,” Trump told the rally, promising to continue his failing attempts to overturn the election results by any means.
Trump also continued to pile on the pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, who has refused to block the certification process playing out in Congress in his role as the presiding officer of the Senate.
“I just spoke to Mike,” he told the crowd. “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. I hope so, I hope so. Because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election… I hope he doesn’t listen to the stupid people.”
“It’s so egregious, it’s so bad that some people don’t even believe it,” Trump continued, baselessly claiming that the entire election process was riddled with widespread fraud. “This isn’t a matter of domestic politics, it’s a matter of national security.”
During Trump’s speech, however, Pence sent a letter to Congress that flatly denied that he would attempt to block the electoral votes, noting that his role in the process was purely ceremonial.
While several Republican legislators have said that they would object to the certification of Biden, however, Trump’s campaign is unlikely to muster the votes required to overturn the results.
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