Police are clearing supporters of President Donald Trump from the US Capitol after they breached one of the most iconic American buildings, engulfing the nation’s capital in chaos after Trump urged his supporters to fight against the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes that confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
Shortly after 1 p.m. ET hundreds of pro-Trump protesters pushed through barriers set up along the perimeter of the Capitol, where they tussled with officers in full riot gear, some calling the officers “traitors” for doing their jobs. About 90 minutes later, police said demonstrators got into the building and the doors to the House and Senate were being locked. Shortly after, the House floor was evacuated by police.
An armed standoff took place at the House front door as of 3 p.m. ET, and police officers had their guns drawn at someone who was trying to breach it. A Trump supporter was also pictured standing at the Senate dais earlier in the afternoon. A woman is in critical condition after being shot in the chest on the Capitol grounds, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The sources could not provide further details on the circumstances of the shooting. Multiple officers have been injured with at least one transported to the hospital, multiple sources tell CNN.
Smoke grenades were used on the Senate side of the Capitol, as police work to clear the building of rioters. Windows on the west side of the Senate have been broken, and hundreds of officers are amassing on the first floor of the building.
The Senate floor was cleared of rioters as of 3:30 p.m. ET, and an officer told CNN that they have successfully squeezed them away from the Senate wing of the building and towards the Rotunda, and they are removing them out of the East and West doors of the Capitol. It’s not clear if any of the individuals have been taken into custody.
The US Capitol Police worked to secure the second floor of the Capitol first, and were seen just before 5 p.m. pushing demonstrators off the steps on the east side of the building. Lines of officers could be seen gathering at the Capitol complex in full riot gear.
Vice President Mike Pence was also evacuated from Capitol, where he was to perform his role in the counting of electoral votes.
The stunning display of insurrection was the first time the US Capitol had been breached since the British attacked and burned the building in August of 1814, during the War of 1812, according to Samuel Holliday, director of scholarship and operations with the US Capitol Historical Society.
An afternoon of chaos
The protesters first breached exterior security barriers, and video footage showed protesters gathering and some clashing with police near the Capitol building. CNN’s team on the ground saw a number of protesters trying to move up the side of the Capitol building. Several loud flash bangs were heard as well.
Protesters could be seen pushing against metal fences and police using the fences to push protesters back, while other officers reached over the top to club people trying to cross their lines.
Flash bangs could be heard near the steps of the Capitol as smoke filled the air. In some instances officers could be seen deploying pepper spray. Tear gas was deployed, but it’s not clear whether by protesters or police, and people wiped tears from their eyes while coughing.
After the building was breached, the Capitol police officer in the House chamber told lawmakers that they may need to duck under their chairs and informed lawmakers that protesters were in the building’s Rotunda. Lots of House members were seen wearing gas masks as they move between Capitol buildings. Members were calling family to say they are OK.
There are no clear answers yet on when the joint session will continue, multiple sources familiar told CNN. Congressional leadership wants the situation to be brought under control first.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat who is a member of leadership, told reporters: “The Capitol is being cleared. When it is safe, we will return to complete our constitutional responsibilities. This is the United States. We will not allow mob rule to undermine the rule of law.”
Congressional leaders were being evacuated from the Capitol complex just before 5 p.m. ET and were set to be taken to Fort McNair, a nearby Army base in Washington, according to a federal law enforcement official.
Trump has directed the National Guard to Washington along with “other federal protective services,” according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The entire DC National Guard has been activated by the Department of Defense, according to the Pentagon.
“The D.C. Guard has been mobilized to provide support to federal law enforcement in the District,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman. “Acting Secretary Miller has been in contact with Congressional leadership, and Secretary McCarthy has been working with the D.C. government. The law enforcement response will be led by the Department of Justice.”
The official said DC National Guard was not anticipating to be used to protect federal facilities, and the Trump administration had decided earlier this week that would be the task of civilian law enforcement, the official said.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser just announced a citywide curfew from 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday until 6 a.m. ET Thursday.
The shocking scene was met with less police force than many of the Black Lives Matter protests that rolled across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last year. While federal police attacked peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square outside the White House over the summer, clearing the way for Trump to take a photo in front of a nearby church at the time, protesters on Wednesday were able to overrun Capitol police and infiltrate the country’s legislative chambers.
Trump tells supporters to go home, eventually
Trump finally called on his supporters to “go home” hours after the riot started, but spent a large amount of time in the one-minute video lamenting and lying about his election loss.
In one stunning line, Trump told the mob to “go home,” but added, “We love you. You are very special.”
Trump struck a sympathetic tone to the rioters he himself unleashed saying, “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it. Especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.”
Others inside the President’s orbit tweeted their calls for calm as the mob repeatedly attempted to take over the building.
Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son, said that his supporters who mobbed the Capitol were “wrong and not who we are.”
“Be peaceful and use your 1st Amendment rights, but don’t start acting like the other side. We have a country to save and this doesn’t help anyone,” he tweeted.
Multiple bombs detonated safely
Federal and local law enforcement responded to reports of possible pipe bombs in multiple locations in Washington, DC, according to a federal law enforcement official. It’s unclear if the devices are real or a hoax, but they’re being treated as real.
A pipe bomb was found at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters earlier Wednesday, an RNC official told CNN. The device was found on the ground outside, along the wall of the headquarters. It was safely detonated by the police, the RNC official said.
At least two suspected pipe bombs have been rendered safe by law enforcement, including the one at the building that houses RNC offices and one in the US Capitol complex, a federal law enforcement official told CNN. The official said these were real explosive devices and they were detonated safely.
The Democratic National Committee was also evacuated after a suspicious package was being investigated nearby, a Democratic source familiar with the matter told CNN. The party had preemptively closed the building ahead of the protests, the source said, but a few security and essential personnel were evacuated.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.