Protesters backing President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in violent clashes with police.
Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress’s formal approval of president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the general election. Several Republican lawmakers have backed his calls, despite there being no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing in the election.
Both chambers abruptly recessed as dozens of people breached security perimeters at the Capitol and lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the rotunda.
A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the chamber and lawmakers tried to gather information about what was happening.
Protesters were inside the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled “Trump won that election.” Several dozen were roaming through the halls, yelling, “Where are they?” Some were also in the visitors’ galleries.
WATCH | Pro-Trump protesters storm barricades at U.S. Capitol:
An announcement was played inside the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting and expected to vote to affirm Biden’s victory. Due to an “external security threat,” no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex, the recording said.
Both chambers abruptly went into recess. The District of Columbia’s Mayor, Muriel Bowser, issued a curfew for 6 p.m., and the Pentagon says about 1,100 D.C. National Guard members are being mobilized to help support law enforcement.
A spokesperson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that officers from the Federal Protective Service and U.S. Secret Service agents are being sent to the scene. He says they were requested to assist by U.S. Capitol Police.
The skirmishes occurred outside in the very spot where Biden will be inaugurated in just two weeks.
Protesters tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and were met by officers in riot gear. Some tried to push past the officers who held shields and officers could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd to keep them back. Some in the crowd were shouting “traitors” as officers tried to keep them back.
A suspicious package was also reported in the area, Capitol Police said.
The skirmishes came just shortly after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters, riling up the crowd with his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally near the White House on Wednesday ahead of Congress’s vote.
This is when the riot police first came in. <a href=”https://t.co/8bcTEVrgMl”>pic.twitter.com/8bcTEVrgMl</a>
“We will not let them silence your voices,” Trump told the protesters, who had lined up before sunrise to get a prime position to hear the president.
After the Capitol was breached, Trump encouraged supporters in a tweet to “remain peaceful,” but didn’t call for them to disperse.
Biden, who said U.S. democracy was under “unprecedented assault,” called on Trump to go on national television and demand an end to “this siege.”
Vice-President Mike Pence called on protesters to leave immediately.
In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, Pence said, “This attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern about the violent scenes.
“Obviously we’re concerned and we’re following the situation minute by minute,” Trudeau told the Vancouver radio station News 1130. “I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly.”