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Guns and tear gas in US Capitol as Trump supporters attempt to overturn his loss

Guns and tear gas in US Capitol as Trump supporters attempt to overturn his loss

Supporters of US President Donald Trump rampaged through Congress. (Photo: AFP/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

WASHINGTON: Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday (Jan 6) in a bid to overturn his election defeat, forcing Congress to postpone a session that would have certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

With drawn guns and tear gas, police evacuated lawmakers and struggled for more than three hours to clear the Capitol Building of Trump supporters, who surged through the halls and rummaged through offices in shocking scenes of chaos and mayhem.

US Capitol Police with guns drawn stand near a barricaded door as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, in Washington. (Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik)
People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the US Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

One protester occupied the Senate dais and yelled: "Trump won that election." Protesters overturned barricades and clashed with police as thousands descended on the Capitol grounds.

Police declared the Capitol building secure shortly after 5.30pm (6.30am Singapore time), and lawmakers planned to reconvene at 8pm to resume the election certification.

Video showed the Trump supporters breaking windows and police deploying tear gas inside the building. Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said members of the crowd used chemical irritants to attack police and several had been injured.

One civilian died after being shot during the mayhem, Washington police said. The FBI said it had disarmed two suspected explosive devices.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a citywide curfew starting at 6pm. National Guard troops, FBI agents and US Secret Service were deployed to help overwhelmed Capitol police, and Guard troops and police pushed protesters away from the Capitol after the curfew took effect.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard would be sent to Washington to help “the peaceful transition of presidential power".

Cuomo, a Democrat, said the troops would be sent for up to two weeks at the request of US National Guard officials.

In a statement, Cuomo said: “For 244 years, the cornerstone of our democracy has been the peaceful transfer of power, and New York stands ready to help ensure the will of the American people is carried out, safely and decisively.”

They will join law enforcement from Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey who are also coming to Washington's aid.

READ: 'It's insurrection,' says Biden, as Trump supporters storm US Capitol

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Alex Edelman)
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on Jan 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (Photo: AP/Julio Cortez)

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Trump, who before the election refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost, addressed thousands of protesters near the White House, repeating unfounded claims that the contest was stolen from him due to widespread election fraud and irregularities.

Trump told the supporters they should march on the Capitol to express their anger at the voting process and pressure their elected officials to reject the results, urging them "to fight".

READ: Donald Trump tells supporters to 'go home' after storming of US Capitol

READ: Twitter locks Trump's account, threatens permanent ban over violations

Biden, a Democrat who defeated the Republican president in the Nov 3 election and is due to take office on Jan 20, said the activity of the protesters "borders on sedition".

The former vice president said that for demonstrators to storm the Capitol, smash windows, occupy offices, invade Congress and threaten the safety of duly elected officials: "It's not a protest, it's insurrection."

He urged Trump to demand "an end to this siege" on national television.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump stand next to media equipment they destroyed during a protest on Jan 6, 2020 outside the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP/Agnes Bun)
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol in Washington DC on Jan 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Joseph Prezioso)

In a video posted to Twitter, Trump repeated his false claims about election fraud but urged the protesters to leave.

"You have to go home now, we have to have peace," he said, adding: "We love you. You're very special."

Twitter restricted users from retweeting Trump's video, and Facebook took it down entirely, citing the risk of violence. Twitter said later it had locked the account of Trump for 12 hours and threatened permanent suspension.

Lawmakers had been debating a last-ditch effort by pro-Trump lawmakers to challenge the results, which was unlikely to succeed.

Critics had called the effort by the Republican lawmakers an attack on American democracy and the rule of law and an attempted legislative coup.

READ: Pelosi says Biden win certification to resume once Capitol secure

The top two Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, called on Trump to demand that all the protesters leave the Capitol and its grounds immediately.

"This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election,” former President George W Bush, a Republican, said in a statement, without mentioning Trump by name.

US Capitol Police hold protesters at gun-point near the House Chamber inside the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik)
People wear plastic respirators as they are evacuated from the House Chamber as protesters attempt to enter the chamber during a joint session of Congress on Jan 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Capitol Police told lawmakers in the House chamber to take gas masks from beneath their seats and prepare to put them on. Officers at the front door of the House chamber had their guns drawn as someone attempted to enter the chamber.

Police piled furniture against the doors of the House chamber as protesters tried to break them down, Democratic Representative Jason Crow said on MSNBC.

Several hundred House members, staff and press were later evacuated to an undisclosed location.

READ: World stunned by violence in US Capitol as protesters attempt to overturn election

READ: 'It's a sad day' - Teo Chee Hean hopes for peaceful end after protesters storm US Capitol

Election officials of both parties and independent observers have said there was no significant fraud in the Nov 3 contest, which Biden won by more than 7 million votes in the national popular vote.

Weeks have passed since the states completed certifying that Biden, a Democrat, won the election by 306 Electoral College votes to Trump's 232. Trump's extraordinary challenges to Biden's victory have been rejected by courts across the country.


Trump had pressed Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress, to throw out election results in states the president narrowly lost, although Pence has no authority to do so.

"Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more," Trump said at the rally.

Pence said in a statement he could not accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally.

Trump supporters gather outside the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, in Washington. (Photo: AP/John Minchillo)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears a gas mask and holds a bust of him after he and hundreds of others stormed the Capitol building on Jan 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Roberto Schmidt)

The certification in Congress, normally a formality, had been expected to stretch for several hours as some Republican lawmakers mounted an effort to reject some state tallies, starting with Arizona.

Republicans and Democrats, who had been bitterly divided over that effort, both called on the Trump supporters to stand down.

"This is un-American and this has to stop," said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, a Trump ally who supported the Republican effort to challenge the results.

That attempt was unlikely to succeed, as even many Republicans opposed it.

Commentary: The nightmarish end to Donald Trump’s presidency

"If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped give Trump some of his biggest accomplishments.

The violence unfolded on the same day that Trump's Republicans lost their majority in the Senate as they lost two runoff elections in Georgia.

US Capitol Police officers walk through the Rotunda on Jan 6, 2021. (Photo: AP/J Scott Applewhite)
European papers talked of "chaos" and "shame", with one French daily saying Trump had "set fire to Washington". (Photo: AFP/Roberto Schmidt)

The mayhem stunned world leaders. "Trump and his supporters must accept the decision of American voters at last and stop trampling on democracy," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

Business groups, normally staunch allies of Republicans in Washington, also reacted strongly. The National Association of Manufacturers said Pence should consider invoking a clause in the Constitution that allows a president to be removed from office when he is unable to do his job.

"This is sedition and should be treated as such," said the group's president, Jay Timmons.

Source: Reuters/ec


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