by COOPER TINSLEY - January 15, 2021 - The United States Capitol under siege.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021, will go down in history as one of the most horrific threats to American democracy. There are always those events, good or bad, that we know will change our lives forever. Ones that will leave a lasting impact on society. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The inauguration of the first African-American president on January 20, 2009. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012. This was one of those moments. People across the country were petrified of the violent mob charging up the capitol steps as our nation’s representatives worked to certify the electoral vote count. According to the US Capitol Historical Society, this was the first time the building had been breached since 1814 when the British attacked.
So, what could have influenced this mob to cause so much damage? President Donald Trump continues to let the nation know that he is unhappy with the election results. The President continues to speak out against the outcome, using unfounded and distorted arguments. Despite these discrepancies, he continues to motivate his followers to keep fighting. So that’s what they did. Motivated by false claims, the pro-Trump mob breached the US capitol in an effort to stop the certification before Congress could even get through the state of Arizona (they go through each state alphabetically).
To grasp the extent of this grim event, here is an outline of the events that took place on January 6, adapted from NPR and CNN.
At 1:00 p.m., a joint session of Congress begins the process of certifying the electoral vote count. Congress then certified the results from Alabama and Alaska. Meanwhile, at around 1:11, a speech in which President Trump urged his followers to go to the capitol building, ends. At 1:30, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona announced his objection to Arizona's electoral results.
"The American people elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the next President and Vice President of the United States,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “and yet, a number of our colleagues have organized an effort to undermine and object to that free and fair election. They are in the minority. They will lose. They know that."
At 2:07, before lawmakers could finish the certification of Arizona, rioters breached the east side of the Capitol. As the situation escalated, it became clear the United States Capitol Police were not prepared for this. Largely outnumbered, the mob pushed through barricades and scaled the walls of Congress. Finally, at 2:16, the mob is first documented to be inside the building.
At 2:38, President Trump asked his followers to “stay peaceful” via Twitter. Four minutes later, both chambers of congress go into lockdown. Elected officials and legislative staffers barricaded the doors of offices and hid under desks and chairs silently, as the world around them erupted. At 3:00, the first gunshots were heard. In total, five people died due to the events.
An emergency alert from Capitol Police at 3:30 declared to lawmakers that "due to an internal threat in the building, [they should] take shelter in the nearest office and stay quiet." At 3:36, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House Press Secretary, tweeted that “the National Guard is on the way” under President Trump’s orders. Around the same time, Vice President Pence and Vice President-elect Harris were evacuated. At 3:48, threats spread beyond Capitol Hill when pipe bombs were discovered at the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Convention headquarters as well as other possible locations throughout the Washington D.C. area. Shortly after, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser instated a 6 p.m. curfew on the city.
At 4:06, in a speech to the nation, President-elect Biden stated that "At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite,” calling on Trump to end the siege.
Then, at 6:01, President Trump publicly condoned the behavior of his followers. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he said.
At around 8:00, after the building was declared safe, Congress returned to the Capitol and resumed the certification process. Despite what occurred, many legislators still objected to the electoral-vote counts.
Before the preceding continued, Sen. Chuck Schumer made a statement regarding the riots. “January 6,” he said, “will go down as one of the darkest days of recent American history.”
Finally, at 3:45 a.m., Vice President Pence declared "Joseph R. Biden Jr. of the state of Delaware has received for President of the United States, 306 votes. Donald J. Trump of the state of Florida has received 232 votes." Then, at 3:49 President Trump promised an "orderly transition” via Twitter. The certification process had ended, but the ramifications of the riot continued to unfold.
From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., social media platforms were being bombarded with constant updates from Representatives, Senators, reporters, and others who were in the building at the time of the breach. The world watched in terror as American democracy was torn to pieces. Headlines across the world spoke of anarchy and disaster:
“Protesters storm US Capitol in bid to overturn Biden election win” Arab News
“Insuflada por Trump, multidão invade e vandaliza Congresso” Folha de S.Paulo
Translation: "Inflated by Trump, crowd invades and vandalizes Congress”
“A Landmark night in US History: Capitol riots nation’s Waterloo, destroy global image” Global Times
“Trumpism will remain, both as a policy and as a style” Le Figaro
“Trump provoque le chaos à Washington” Le Monde
Translation: “Trump is causing chaos in Washington”
“Trump supporters defile US democracy, overrun congress” Nigerian Tribune
“Anarchy: Trump supporters invade U.S. Capitol in all-out assault on democracy” Ottawa Sun
“Chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupies Congress” Times of India
In the days following the event, many government officials have resigned including Steven Sund (US Capitol Police Chief), Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education), Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation), Mike Mulvaney (Special Envoy to Northern Ireland and Former acting Chief of Staff), Matthew Pottinger (Deputy National Security Advisor), Stephanie Grisham (Chief of Staff to Melania Trump), Sarah Matthews (Deputy White House Press Secretary), Rickie Niceta (Social secretary to the First Lady), and Tyler Godspeed (Acting Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers).
Immediately following the riots, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle declared that Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment or they would reignite impeachment discussions. The 25th Amendment states that if the President is unable to do his job properly, the Vice President can become President or Acting President. After Pence gave no indication that he was going to use the 25th Amendment, Congress moved forward with impeachment. On January 11, the House released its article of impeachment on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.” Read the article here. On January 13, the House of Representatives impeached President Trump, making him the first president in United States history to be impeached twice.
In the days leading up to the inauguration, a seven-foot, non-scalable fence was erected around the perimeter of the Capitol and up to 10,000 national guard members are on a 30-day mobilization.
After Congress reconvened the joint session to finish the certification process, Vice President Pence condemned the behavior of the rioters. “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capital today,” he said, “You did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house.”