Rioters Storm Capitol Hill


(Photo by: Samuel Corum/Photographer: Samuel Corum/GETTY)

Safa Hameed

On the afternoon of January 6th, a mob of hundreds of Trump supporters began a protest at Capitol Hill, which quickly turned into a violent riot that led to the storming of House of Congress, and the immediate evacuation of Senators and Representatives inside, putting a pause on the counting and certification of electoral votes of President-Elect Joe Biden. This harrowing scene left many glued in front of TVs, news channels, and Twitter, as millions of Americans watched an attempt at insurrection play out on live, no doubt marking January 6th as a day that will live in infamy as many, who have been labeled “domestic terrorists”, tried to effectively discredit American democracy.

Many of these protesters turned rioters came to D.C. in order to attend President Trump’s “Save America Rally”, which was being held early in the morning on the lawn of the Ellipse at the White House. During the rally, President Trump continued his false election agenda and the “stop the steal” rhetoric that he and his avid supporters have coined.

In spite of what Trump has been saying, and what many of his followers believe, no credible evidence has been brought forward to support these assertions of a fraudulent election. According to many court investigations (which amount to 60 and most were actually filed by Trump) and third-party overseers, there was no fraud at a mass level enough to actively change the result of the election on November 3rd, 2021. Yet, former President Trump continues to reinforce misinformation that his avid supporters take to the heart. Comments made during his rally, such as “You don’t concede when there’s theft involved…Our country has had enough…We will not take it anymore,” served to further fuel the mob’s fire.

Soon after the rally ended, many of the attendees marched down to the Capitol where a small handful had already gathered. This, following former President Trump’s final words of the speech, where he exclaimed, “And after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down…to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women.” However, the cheering quickly turned into something much more violent and dark, as they tried to stop the counting and certification of electoral votes.

At around 1:00 PM, both the House and Senate started their counting of electoral votes. While at first, they remained ignorant of their surroundings, the shouting and ruckus of the rioters became apparent behind the thick walls of the Congress, too. The rioters chanted many familiar slogans namely “Stop the Steal”, but what surprised many others was their outright hatred for those who accepted the electoral results. 

They called Republican Congressmen socialists and yelled “Hang Mike Pence” for not overturning election results because he wouldn’t reject chosen electors (in reference to a tweet by Trump), ignoring the fact that the Vice President, as president of the Senate, doesn’t have the power to decide anything over the electoral certification. This further supports the widespread dissemination of misinformation leading up to the event.

Name-calling, heckling, and yelling soon turned into actively fighting against the police force protecting the entrance and the barrier fences before they overcame that too. Eventually, they broke past police defenses and made it to the entrance where they started breaking windows and opening the door by force of sheer; the number of people was simply too disproportionate to amount of police force assigned to hold them back.

While they were breaking in, Representatives and Senators were given gas masks and evacuated to undisclosed locations using underground tunnels. There was clearly a shortage of police officers, and there was nothing that could be done, as rioters stormed the Senate chamber and several offices of different Senators and Representatives, looting and trashing much in their wake.

It wasn’t until 4:00 PM that additional help arrived in the form of the National Guard, which was reportedly ordered in on behalf of the Vice President, and the FBI, who slowly began clearing the Capitol and securing the building so that the Congresswomen and men could get back to work.

By the time the Capitol was secured and rioters were cleared from the premises, Congress was able to resume the Certifications in both houses by 8 pm. The certification went on till the early hours of 4 am, but on January 7th it was certified that Joe Biden would become the 46th President of the United States on inauguration day, January 20th.  

Immediate consequences were clear; several Republicans who were on track to voting against the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral votes quickly changed their ticket after the storming. For example, this harrowing experience was enough for  Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who had promised at one of Trump’s rally to object to the results, to quickly change her vote citing the need to put this behind them and not encourage the sort of reckless and inexcusable behavior that was witnessed hours before saying, “the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now, in good conscience, object.”

Senator Mitt Romney, an ardent Republican critic of what transpired, gave a powerful speech during his time on the Senate Floor citing the dangers in delaying the inevitable and giving in to misinformation, “For any who remain insistent on an audit in order to satisfy the many people who believe that the election was stolen, I’d offer this perspective: No congressional audit is ever going to convince these voters, particularly when the president will continue to say the election was stolen…The best way we can show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling them the truth.”

Several social media sites also banned President Trump, under claims of spreading misinformation and inciting violence through his insistence that the election was fraudulent. However, eventually, Trump conceded, promising a “orderly” transition of power.

On January 13, Trump became the first U.S President to be impeached twice in U.S history after the House passed articles of impeachment for “inciting insurrection” at the recent events.  A Senate impeachment trial most likely won’t be underway until after the Inauguration. At the same time, law enforcement officers are working on making potentially hundreds of arrests of those who participated in the rioting at the Hill. The FBI is utilizing its anonymous tip line by calling on the American people to report anyone they know to have been on the Hill and to send in videos of people who were seen there. 

It’s been days and yet the consequences of January 6th still ring loud today. As the Nation reels in and processes what happens, we can only look forward to Inauguration Day as the fruit of the labors of Democracy and a chance to heal and bridge divides after four years come to a close in bitter and unforgivable violence.