Despite the growing political tension in the U.S. political climate, no one seemed to foresee that a regular day of election certification would end in deadly riots.
Congress was supposed to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. The ceremony, however, turned into a day of chaos and violence that left four dead, multiple arrests and a deep wound in the democratic spirit of the northern nation.
The storm that ignited the riots began after a massive rally in front of the White House in which Donald Trump also participated. After the rally, hundreds of protesters marched to the Capitol to denounce what they consider an electoral fraud of which there is no legal proof.
After clashing with the police outside the building, protesters managed to enter the premises, which led to the suspension of the legislators’ sessions and the blocking of access to the Senate and House of Representatives rooms.
While law enforcement officials tried to control the situation, the legislators took refuge in their offices and Vice President Mike Pence, who was chairing the certification session, was moved to a safe place to avoid the riots.
Protesters occupied the building for more than three hours before it was successfully secured by law enforcement. Videos posted by journalists on social networks showed clashes between guards and protesters in the halls of the Capitol.
The mayor of Washington DC announced a curfew that went into effect at 18:00 local time (23:00 GMT).
President-elect Joe Biden condemned the protesters’ actions and said the events were an assault on democracy.
“To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices on the floor of the United States Senate, rummaging through desks, on the House of Representatives, threatening the safety of duly elected officials. It’s not protest; it’s insurrection,” he said.
Donald Trump posted a video on Twitter where he told those who took part in the riots to go leave the premises and go home. However, he continued to make claims that election fraud took place.
Other former presidents gave their opinions about the riots. Barack Obama described the events at the Capitol as “as a moment of great dishonour and shame for our nation” in a statement and George W Bush described the events as “a sickening & heartbreaking sight”.
After the Capitol building was secured, lawmakers returned to the Senate to finish counting the electoral votes. Joe Biden’s victory was formally confirmed on Thursday morning and he will be officially sworn in as president in two weeks.
Meanwhile Donald Trump has been suspended from Twitter and Facebook after tweeting to supporters who attacked the US Capitol.
World leaders reaction
Leaders across Europe took to Twitter to express their outrage at the riots. “Shocking scenes,” tweeted Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of NATO, headquartered in Brussels. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Stolberg called the scenes “unbelievable,” and “a totally unacceptable attack on democracy. A heavy responsibility now rests on President Trump to put a stop to this.”
On Thursday morning, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech that the images of the scene “angered and saddened me”. French president Emmanuel Macron also released a statement, tweeting “We believe in democracy” and declaring that the siege on Congress was “not American.”