An already unprecedented afternoon in the nation’s capital devolved into chaos Wednesday when a pro-Trump mob clashed with police and overran the U.S. Capitol building as Congress debated whether to accept or reject the results of Joe Biden’s win in the November election.
U.S. Senators and Representatives were ushered into hiding. At least one person was shot, according to CNN and FOX.
“This is what an attempted coup looks like,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Broward County, who spoke to the Miami Herald over the phone from Washington.
A Miami Herald reporter who was in the press gallery of the House of Representatives, described a scene that included orders to lie face down on the floor after the rioters broke in the Capitol building and began roaming the halls. Everyone in the House Chamber was also given a gas mask, including reporters.
“Be prepared to get under your chairs, if necessary,” an officer told everyone in the chamber.
Later as another Florida representative, Democratic Rep. Val Demings, was being evacuated alongside Florida Rep. Darren Soto, she smiled and said, “They can’t stop us.”
Lawmakers and staff who were on the House floor were evacuated first. Lawmakers, reporters and staff who were watching proceedings from the third floor were evacuated about five minutes later, though they were advised to lay down on the floor for a period of about three minutes as Capitol Police placed a table in front of the main door of the chamber.
All the lawmakers on the third floor were Democrats.
Police drew their weapons as banging was heard on the door. A pane of glass was also broken by someone outside the House chamber.
About three minutes in, a loud bang was heard by a reporter who was sheltering in place on the third floor of the Capitol, where guests of the president sit during the State of the Union address. It’s not clear what the bang was, though it was not someone shooting from inside the chamber.
Lawmakers, reporters and staff were then escorted down the stairs on the west side of the House chamber to the basement of the Capitol. A group of people in police custody were seen lying on the ground of the third floor of the Capitol.
A group of Democratic lawmakers noted that Republican elected officials were the fastest to leave the chamber when ordered to do so by Capitol Police.
“Did you notice it was the Republicans who left the fastest?” said Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa.
Members of Congress on the third floor were taken to a room in Longworth House office building. Reporters were led to the cafeteria in the basement of Longworth.
The scene was condemned by Republicans and Democrats, alike.
“There is nothing patriotic about what is occurring on Capitol Hill. This is 3rd world style anti-American anarchy,” tweeted Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, adding later: “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump the men & women of law enforcement are under assault. It is crucial you help restore order by sending resources to assist the police and ask those doing this to stand down.”
Trump, who’d earlier told his supporters that Republicans who refused to vote to overturn the election were “weak” and “pathetic,” tweeted around 3 p.m. that he was “asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence!” He later released a video calling on his supporters to go home — but repeating that the election was stolen.
In a phone interview, Wasserman Schultz said Trump had instigated the mob by claiming fraud without evidence and stoking anger over the results of a legitimate election.
“It’s sickening. It’s sickening,” she said. “This is supposed to be the greatest country on earth, the safe haven to which others fleeing violence and atrocity in other countries can find their safe haven. We’ve lost all credibility.”