Saturday, June 19

Biden blasts Trump supporters’ ‘siege’ of Capitol


media captionPolice place US Capitol Building on lockdown after Trump supporters breached security lines

US President-elect Joe Biden has blasted the “insurrection” of pro-Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol in a riot that saw a woman shot dead.

The Democrat called on outgoing President Donald Trump to “step up” and repudiate the violence.

Mr Trump, who had urged the demonstrators to march on the Congress, later called on them to “go home”.

A joint session of Congress confirming electoral college votes was suspended by the mayhem and forced into recess.

The protesters fought their way past police to breach the US Capitol, shouting and waving pro-Trump and US flags as they roamed through the halls, demanding the results of the presidential election be overturned.

In stunning scenes beamed around the world, the invasion sent members of Congress scrambling for cover under their seats and donning gas masks as tear gas was fired in the Capitol Rotunda.

A female civilian who was shot inside the US Capitol during the chaos has died, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department said.

Federal law enforcement official said two suspected explosive devices were found and were both rendered safe by the FBI and Capitol Hill police.

  • In pictures: Pro-Trump protesters storm Capitol

What did Biden say?

Speaking from Wilmington, Delaware, Mr Biden said democracy was ‘”under unprecedented assault”.

“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfil his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” he said.

“To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices on the floor of the United States Senate, rummaging through desks, on the House of Representatives, threatening the safety of duly elected officials.

“It’s not protest; it’s insurrection.”

media captionJoe Biden: The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are

What did Trump say?

Mr Trump responded in a recorded video on Twitter, repeating his unproven claims of fraud in November’s White House election.

“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt,” said the Republican president, who leaves office on 20 January.

“We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.

“But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”

media caption“We will never give up, we will never concede”, Trump tells supporters

Twitter added a warning label to the tweet, citing the “risk of violence” and blocked it from being retweeted. The social media company later locked the president’s account to prevent him from tweeting.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump addressed a “Save America Rally” outside the White House.

He urged supporters to head to the Capitol and said: “Our country has had enough and we will not take it anymore.”

What happened at the Capitol?

Little is known about the woman who died, but disturbing footage from the scene shows her slumped on the ground with blood on her face.

Police have not yet released her identity of the woman and it is unclear who fired the shot that killed her.

The protesters surged up the Capitol steps at around 14:15 local time (19:15 GMT), shoving past barricades and officers in riot gear to penetrate the building.

The mob – some of whom were wearing wore body armour – used chemical irritants to attack police, according to Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee.

They marched through the building shouting “Where are they?” and chanting “We want Trump”.

One climbed on to the Senate dais and shouted: “Trump won that election.” Another protester was photographed sitting in House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with a foot on the table.

During the chaos, members of Congress – including Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris – were told to evacuate the building or remain where they were. A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the House of Representatives chamber.

National Guard troops, FBI agents and US Secret Service were deployed to help overwhelmed Capitol police.

After an occupation lasting several hours, the sergeant-at-arms – the executive office of the Senate – announced that the building had been secured by law enforcement.

But there was little sign the protesters were heeding Mr Trump’s call to go home, despite a citywide curfew declared by the city mayor from 18:00 to 06:00 (23:00 to 11:00 GMT).

Meanwhile, a suspicious device was found outside the Republican National Committee’s headquarters, near the Capitol complex, and it was detonated by a bomb squad.

image copyrightReuters

image captionTear gas is used to disperse protesters at the Capitol building

Vice-President Mike Pence had called on the rioters to leave the Capitol immediately, saying the violence and destruction “must stop now”.

There were also reports of protests at state legislatures in Kansas, Georgia, Utah and on the other side of the country in Oregon and the north-western state of Washington.

image copyrightReuters

‘Surrender the building to us’

By Laura Trevelyan, BBC News, Washington

On the steps of Capitol Hill, hundreds of loyal Trump supporters are packed closely together, as nearby armed police officers keep a watchful eye.

The mood here is tense and defiant.

“We’re not [expletive] Antifa!” one man screams at the police, referring to the loose coalition of “anti-fascist” activists that oppose Mr Trump.

Trump loyalists near him wave placards that say “show us the ballots”.

“All we want is for the Capitol police to stand down, and surrender the building to us,” says one man to news cameras, as he is filmed by other Trump supporters.

The conviction here is that the election was stolen from President Trump, and the lawmakers inside the building should do their duty and somehow award the election to him.

Never mind that election officials have certified the results and the courts have thrown out Trump campaign lawsuits alleging fraud because there’s no evidence.

It’s a siege mentality here, as word spreads through the crowd that the National Guard is on its way to the Capitol.

What were the protesters targeting?

A joint session of Congress was being held to certify Mr Biden’s election victory on 3 November.

The proceedings are usually brief and ceremonial but Republican lawmakers have been objecting to some results.

image copyrightReuters
image captionPolice have been taking up position inside the Capitol building

For days Mr Trump had also been putting pressure on Mr Pence, who is presiding over the session, to block certification of the result. “Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!” the president tweeted on Wednesday.

But in a letter to Congress, Mr Pence said that he had no “unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted”.

Mr Trump has also tried to throw doubt on the integrity of Tuesday’s Senate run-off votes in the southern, traditionally Republican, state of Georgia – where two Democrats are projected to have won.

Their victory would hand Democrats effective control of the Senate – something that will help Mr Biden push forward his agenda after he is inaugurated as president this month.

What’s the reaction?

Political figures across the world expressed shock. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned “disgraceful scenes” and called for a “peaceful and orderly transfer of power”.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “Trump and his supporters must accept the decision of American voters at last and stop trampling on democracy.”

And former US President George W Bush said in a statement: “It is a sickening & heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.”

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