Insurrection on Capitol Hill


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2021 storming of the United States Capitol

Chris Doyle, World/Business Editor

On January 6, 2021, the United States Congress and the Vice President convened to formally certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in favor of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. The Washington Post reported the day before that a coalition of Republican lawmakers intended to object to the results. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), in coordination with Representative Andy Briggs (R-AZ), objected to the counting of eleven electoral votes from Arizona in favor of the Biden/Harris ticket. It was further reported that at least eleven other Republican senators were supportive of the objection. 

The same day as the congressional proceedings, President Trump hosted a rally in Washington DC to rail against the results of the election, and called on Vice President Pence to summarily invalidate the Biden win. Mr. Pence’s largely ceremonial role of President of the Senate did not give him such authority, nor was he able to vote on the floor unless in the case of a tie. The President-along with his lawyer and his son-called for a march to the Hill in protest against the inevitable affirmation of Mr. Biden’s victory. The Independent reported that the President’s son threatened lawmakers opposed to overturning the results with “we’re coming for you.” 

Shortly after 2:00 PM (EST), the United States Capitol was breached by a mob of seditious Trump supporters. C-SPAN coverage of the Arizona debate was cut after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Pence were removed by security officials. Mr. Pence and Mrs. Pelosi are first and second in line to the presidency, respectively. The next presiding officer of the Senate announced that protesters had entered the building. Congress went into emergency recess and lockdown in undisclosed locations in the Capitol complex during the attack. 

Social media and news footage of the siege depicts mostly white, enraged followers of Donald Trump overwhelming, threatening, and assaulting law enforcement officers on-scene. As the insurrectionists made their way through the sanctum of the Capitol, one member of the crowd vandalizing and threatening the duly elected representatives of the American people was shot by security forces. Images through the day include mobsters ransacking, looting, and occupying the offices of congressional leaders. One man, who has since been arrested, according to CNN, was photographed sitting in Speaker Pelosi’s office. Another, a man later identified as Kevin Seefried,  marched the Confederate battle flag down the halls of the Capitol. He has since turned himself in. The Hill and the New York Times reported that explosive devices had been discovered on the Capitol grounds, as well as at the respective headquarters of the RNC and DNC. A state lawmaker from West Virginia, Derrick Evans, who has since resigned, was arrested for his participation in the crisis on January 8, according to CBS News. MSNBC broadcasted footage of rioters attempting to remove an American Flag from the Capitol, and replace it with a Trump flag. It was not until after 8:00PM that Congress was able to continue certifying the vote. Officer Brian Sicknick of the Capitol Police died from injuries sustained on January 7, according to the New York Times. The Senate and House Sergeants-at-Arms-the officers responsible for the security of Congress-resigned on January 7 at the demand of congressional leaders, according to CNN. 

Response to the occupation was mixed. President-Elect Biden gave an impromptu speech, denouncing the action as “an assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself. An assault on the people’s representatives.” He called on Donald Trump to dispel his supporters. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had strongly discouraged participation in any objection, lambasted the assault and those whose denials helped fan the flames in a speech after reclaiming the Senate Floor, according to CNN. He had warned that overruling the vote would, “damage our Republic forever.” President Donald Trump released a video on his Twitter account that called for “peace”, while still asserting baseless claims that he won the election. He finished by telling those holding the Capitol hostage that “we love you” and “you’re very special.” 

The four living former-presidents released condemning statements, according to CNN. “History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise,” President Obama said.  President Bush stated that “this is how election results are disputed in a banana republic, not a democratic republic”. He blamed “political leaders” for rhetorical abuses that ignited such actions. President Clinton summed up the offense as “an unprecedented assault on our Capitol, our Constitution, and our country,” further echoing Presidents Bush and Obama on the dangers of misinformation by officials. President Carter recollected the Carter Center’s election observation missions, and recalled similarities with troubled countries.  

Abroad, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted a video of solidarity for the unfortunate events that played out, saying “We [the French] believe in the strength of American democracy.” On the other hand, Chinese state media reported that their foreign ministry “hopes that Americans could enjoy peace, stability and security as soon as possible,” but accused the United States of hypocrisy due to its support of democratic movements in Hong Kong. The same day as the insurrection, Chinese security forces detained 53 activists in Hong Kong through home invasions, according to the BBC. NBC News reported that the Ayatollah of Iran declared “You are now seeing the situation in the U.S. This is their democracy and human rights, this is their election scandal, these are their values. These values are being mocked by the whole world. Even their friends are laughing at them.” In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “American democracy will prevail”, yet continued his embrace of Donald Trump, according to the Jerusalem Post. 

The underwhelming presence of law enforcement at the Capitol, compared to the militarized officers during the past summer’s 2020 Black Lives Matter wave of protest has raised questions about the role of race and white privilege in the lacking response on January 6. At a press conference on January 7 to introduce his nominees for the top positions at the Department of Justice, President-Elect Biden concurred that “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” according to NPR. 

Congress ratified the election results in the early hours of January 7, completely solidifying the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Despite the insurrection, members of the Republican Party continued to object to the results. Pennsylvania certification was delayed by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who was the first senator to agree to the move when he announced it in a tweet on December 30, 2020. The number of senators opposed dramatically dwindled after the siege with only six Republican senators voting for in the case of Arizona, and seven in the case of Pennsylvania. Attempts to call for debate in Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Georgia were unsuccessful. Hawley’s hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Star, called for his resignation on January 6. The paper further reported this sentiment is concurred by other Senate colleagues, including Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Pat Murray (D-WA), who also called for Senator Cruz to resign.  

On January 7, CNN reported that Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership gave Vice President Pence and the Cabinet an ultimatum: strip Donald Trump of his executive authority under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, or the House would move forward with renewed articles of impeachment. The House impeached Donald Trump for the second time on January 13, 2021 for inciting insurrection against the United States with all Democrats and 10 Republicans voting in favor.