Washington (AP) – Protests by angry supporters of the elected US President Donald Trump in the capital Washington escalated on Wednesday and plunged the political center of the USA into chaos.
After a heated Republican speech, Trump supporters marched in front of the Capitol, the seat of the US Parliament, to protest against the certification of the presidential election results. Rioters stormed the congress building. The two chambers of congress had to suspend their sessions, chambers of parliament were cleared, and MPs were brought to safety. A woman was killed in the unrest – the background was initially unclear.
According to the police, the woman was shot after the intrusion of Trump supporters in the US Capitol and died a little later. A police spokeswoman confirmed the death of the woman to the German press agency on Wednesday evening (local time). The broadcaster NBC also reported several injuries, citing security forces.
Images from the CNN broadcaster showed how rioters smashed window panes, thus gaining access to the building and also breaking into parliamentary offices. In another picture, a protester posed in the vacated Senate Chamber with his fist raised on the chairman’s seat.
Only after several hours did the security forces regain control of the situation at Parliament’s headquarters. The Capitol was secured again, the AP news agency reported early Wednesday evening (local time), citing officials responsible.
At about the same time, a curfew came into effect in Washington until early Thursday morning. A night curfew has also been imposed for the neighboring cities of Arlington and Alexandria.
MPs who had gone to safety spoke up on social media or by phone on national television. Republican MP Adam Kinzinger, for example, called the CNN incident “disgusting” and “absolutely despicable”. Several Democratic congressmen called for another impeachment trial against Trump, whom they personally blamed for the escalation.
Future US President Joe Biden spoke of an attack on democracy. “Storming the Capitol, breaking windows, occupying offices, occupying the United States Senate, rummaging through the desks of the House of Representatives in the Capitol, and threatening the safety of duly elected officials is not a protest,” Biden said. “It’s riot.”
The unrest also raised concerns internationally. Heads of government in other countries expressed their shock at the riots.
The House of Representatives and the Senate met in the Capitol on Wednesday noon (local time) to officially confirm the results of the US presidential election in November – and Biden’s victory. Thousands of Trump supporters flocked to the US capital to protest the certification of the election result.
Trump had lost the election by a clear margin against the democratic challenger Biden. But he refuses to admit defeat. Trump claims he was robbed of victory by massive fraud. Neither he nor his lawyers provided any convincing evidence. Dozens of lawsuits from the Trump camp have so far been thrown out of courts, including the US Supreme Court.
Shortly before the start of the congressional session, Trump appeared in front of his supporters near the Capitol, repeated unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud and called on his supporters to move to the Capitol. You shouldn’t put up with the “theft” of choice.
After numerous politicians urged Trump to stop the outbreak of violence, the president published a video message on Twitter calling on his supporters to withdraw. He understands the anger over the outcome of the election, “but you have to go home now,” said Trump in the clip. “We must have peace, we must have law and order.” Nobody should be injured, he warned. At the same time he said to the address of his followers: “We love you. You are something very special.”
Later he wrote in another tweet that such “things and incidents” just happened when a landslide victory was stolen. “Remember this day forever!” He pushed.
US Vice President Mike Pence, however, made it clear on Twitter that this “attack” on the Capitol would not be tolerated. Those involved would be “held accountable with all the severity of the law”.
Pence had chaired the congressional session before the interruption. Trump had called on him directly to oppose the certification of the election result – contrary to the legal requirements. However, Pence rejected this request.
The certification of election results is usually a formality in the USA. However, various Republicans had previously announced a political disruptive action in which they wanted to appeal against results from several US states. Trump, in turn, had presented this day of the congressional session – without any basis – as the last chance to overturn the election result for weeks. In fact, the election result cannot be shaken. The Republicans’ political disruptive action also had no prospect of success from the start. Several high-ranking Republicans had criticized the planned action of their party colleagues and Trump’s ongoing campaign against the election result as dangerous.
The chairman of the US House of Representatives, the Democrat Nancy Pelosi, announced after the evacuation of the Capitol by protesters that the certification of the presidential election result, which had previously begun, would be continued on Wednesday evening (local time). It was decided to continue with the session as soon as the congress seat was cleared again. This decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Defense and Justice as well as with Trump’s Vice Pence.
Biden is due to be sworn in on January 20th. He can hope to have both chambers in Congress behind him in the future. According to forecasts by the US media, the Democrats also secured control in the US Senate by winning two runoff elections in the state of Georgia, as it became known on Wednesday amid the turmoil. The Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff prevailed against the previous Republican incumbent David Perdue. Previously, the Democrat Raphael Warnock had already been declared the winner in the race against the Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler.
With a de facto majority in the Senate, Biden can rule through the next congressional elections in two years – provided the Democrats in Congress pull together. The Democrats already have a majority in the House of Representatives.