Even after a mob of President Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers and creating a melée in which one person was fatally shot, the president continued to insist that the election he lost was stolen.
“We had an election that was stolen from us,” the president said in a video message on his Twitter account. “It was a landslide election and everybody knows it, especially the other side, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order.”
He concluded: “We love you. You’re very special. … But go home and go home in peace.”
The chaos began at a Wednesday rally calling on Congress to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. President Trump himself spoke; afterward, rallygoers stormed the Capitol building — overwhelming the Capitol Police and entering the building itself.
According to reporters and photos and video from the scene, officers drew their guns on rioters while members of Congress hid under their seats. One woman died after being shot, according to DC police. Three others are said to have died at or near the Capitol Wednesday.
At least two explosive devices were found in the area and disabled by investigators, CNN reported, citing unnamed law enforcement sources. Fox News reported that devices were found near the DNC and the RNC headquarters.
The woman who was fatally shot has been identified as Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, California.
DC police said in a press conference late Wednesday night that three other people had died from “medical emergencies,” though they didn’t provide additional details.
Members of Congress were evacuated and kept at an undisclosed location, where they were told at around 5:30 pm ET that the Capitol had finally been secured. Congress finished the certification of the presidential electoral votes later that evening.
Police recovered two pipe bombs — one at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and one at the Republican National Committee headquarters, both of which are located close to the Capitol building — as well as Molotov cocktails on the Capitol grounds and numerous firearms, DC police announced late Wednesday.
Though some have labeled this a “coup” attempt, the mob did not topple the US government and did not appear to be trying to do so in any permanent way. It did, however, succeed in one of its aims: temporarily disrupting the congressional certification of the 2020 election results, preventing President-elect Joe Biden from completing one of the final steps toward becoming president.
"Protesters are in the building" -- the Senate is abrupt brought into recess pic.twitter.com/33m8Sht4Sm— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 6, 2021
These dramatic events are still ongoing. While it appears that things in the Capitol have stabilized for now, it’s still possible that they once again collapse into chaos. What follows is a rundown of what we know about what happened earlier — and what’s happening right now.
How the chaos began
Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington, DC, for what Trump dubbed a “Save America Rally,” a two-day protest meant to demonstrate support for the disproven conspiracy theory that widespread fraud marred the 2020 presidential election — and that Trump, rather than Biden, is the rightful winner of that contest.
Trump himself addressed a crowd of several thousand rally attendees near the White House on Wednesday, and encouraged them to take their protest to the Capitol following his remarks.
However, several hundred supporters did not wait that long, and began to march to the Capitol area before the conclusion of the president’s speech.
The Washington Post’s Rebecca Tan reported that the Trump supporters were met with barricades, which they destroyed. They proceeded to fight with police, according to HuffPost’s Philip Lewis, who shared video of police working to reestablish control as Trump supporters shouted at them, with several appearing to tell various officers they were “fucking traitor[s].”
Hundreds of Trump supporters have stormed the barricades at the back of the Capitol and are marching toward the building. pic.twitter.com/68nB7QyiP9— Rebecca Tan (@rebtanhs) January 6, 2021
Eventually, the police couldn’t contain the crowd, which broke into the Capitol itself — and things got scarier.
What happened inside the Capitol
As lawmakers and others were moved to safety, Trump supporters continued to fight police, according to HuffPost’s Igor Bobic, who reported that as altercations subsided, there was a “Confederate flag flying outside the Senate chamber.”
Police officers are holding them steps away from the Senate chamber, which is locked. Senators are inside. I see a few confederate flags. pic.twitter.com/YI7X7KmuUG— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 6, 2021
Lawmakers responded to the protest — and to the battles with police — with disbelief; Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) tweeted, “I’m sheltering in place in my office. The building next door has been evacuated. I can’t believe I have to write this.”
Agitators entered legislators’ offices for photos.
A supporter of President Trump sits inside Speaker Pelosi's office. pic.twitter.com/xyhj0Lziro— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 6, 2021
Until the mob interrupted proceedings, both houses of Congress were locked in intense debate over the election. GOP lawmakers issued their first of several planned challenges to the election results, claiming there were irregularities with Arizona’s vote count. These claims have been repeatedly debunked and had no chance of overturning the election.
The rioters did what lawmakers couldn’t: stopped (at least temporarily) progress toward Biden’s inevitable certification. But in the process, they clashed with Capitol police — producing truly alarming scenes of police drawing their guns while legislators take cover under their seats.
Congress temporarily moved to a secure location while federal agents and nearby National Guard from Virginia were deployed to restore order:
The Virginia National Guard and 200 state troopers are being sent to DC, per a top Va official.— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) January 6, 2021
AP: Homeland Security sending additional federal agents to US Capitol to help quell violence— Lindsey Mastis (@LindseyMastis) January 6, 2021
The insurrection will not stop Biden from becoming president, as Congress resumed proceedings late Wednesday evening after the Capitol was finally secured.
But it will have permanent consequences — not least for the family of Babbitt, the woman who was shot and killed during the event.