Trump-incited domestic terrorists overrun Capitol, halt election count, try coup
Insurrectionary legions loyal to President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

WASHINGTON—Thousands of Donald Trump-incited domestic terrorists invaded and overran the U.S. Capitol, chased senators out of their chamber, forced the U.S. House to shelter in place, and halted the Jan. 6 count of electoral votes, planned to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election to the presidency.

Their objective: To overthrow U.S. democracy and keep GOP Oval Office occupant Trump in office, by what D.C.’s Attorney General called “an attempted coup d’etat.” One professor, an expert on right-wing para-military movements told NPR it was “organized, ideological and…to achieve a coup.”

“Yes, it’s illegal, but this is war,” a Trumpite tweeted on social media.

This failure to protect the Capitol must be investigated, since intelligence officials knew for days that there would be dangerous consequences coming from Trump’s call for riots — “will be wild,” he tweeted — to protest Congress’s expected certification today of the electoral college victory of President-elect Biden.

We know some feared the protests would lead to violent confrontations and even worried that Trump might seek to invoke the Insurrection Act to maintain order. Yet the mobs were allowed to overrun the Capitol.

Biden got on national television while the Capitol was still in control of the insurrectionists.

“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times—an assault on a citadel of liberty, the Capitol,” Biden declared. “These scenes…do not reflect the true America. They do not represent who we are.

“What we’ve seen is a small number of extremists, dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos, it’s sedition. I call on this mob to pull back now.” He called it “an insurrection.”

One of the few remaining people alive in the U.S. with memories of fascist terror experienced in her childhood told People’s World that she cried watching the news today.

Ursula Wojcik, 97, said from her Brooklyn apartment tonight that she “prays that Americans realize how close we are coming to the horror we faced in Germany when I was 14 years old.”

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of Trump’s backers stormed the Congress. | Julio Cortez / AP

“I was 14, but I was an accomplished knitter, and I remember trying to keep from falling over the piles of broken glass the morning after Kristallnacht when the Nazi thugs broke the glass at all the Jewish-owned stores. When I got to the shop where I bought my wool with my saved up pfennigs, the store was gone and so was the man in that store who I loved so much. Just a sign that said ‘Juden’ and a pile of broken glass outside the burned-out remains of my favorite shop. I cried and I cried all the way home. I cried even more a few days later at school when my best friend Aide Kerenchek was not in her seat. ‘Aide has a different religion and was taken to where they take all those people,’ was the explanation I got from Herr Schmidt, my teacher.”

“People must understand that this can happen here if we don’t make sure we never elect a Donald Trump again,” Ursula Wojcik said. “I remembered that day when I couldn’t get my wool and I tried not to fall on the broken glass as I watched the Trump supporters breaking the windows of our Capitol. When I came to America in 1947, I thought I was in a country where that could never happen again.”

The invasion of the Capitol by the modern-day Nazis backing Trump began at approximately 2 p.m. Later, the Capitol complex was enveloped in tear gas, inside and out, and rubber bullets were fired. An improvised explosive device was found at Republican national headquarters, two blocks from the Capitol, and disarmed.

One woman, shot in the chest and critically wounded on the Capitol grounds, later died at a hospital. Four others were injured.

Inside, the Trumpites overran the Senate chamber, with one literally climbing the walls. Another, clad in a MAGA hat and a large Trump cape, sat at a senator’s desk, rifled the lawmaker’s papers, then took a selfie. One rioter sat in GOP Vice President Mike Pence’s chair, after he was safely evacuated.

Video showed the assault included explosion of a flash grenade. Many Trumpites brandished Confederate flags. Others smashed windows, overran Capitol Police barricades and the police themselves, stole papers from lawmakers’ desks and storage cabinets, and generally threatened lawmakers, plus staffers and journalists covering the count. The cameras and equipment of Associated Press reporters were stolen and destroyed live online in a supposed strike against what Trump has called the “fake news.” The entire Capitol complex was put on lockdown.

One observer noted the Trumpites wore no anti-coronavirus masks and were not checked for firearms. Trump has made defiance of masking a signature response by his supporters. One Trumpite tweeted beforehand, in caps, “Live as a free American and bring your arms!”

“This is what President Trump caused today. This is an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States,” a furious Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted. “This is how disputes are resolved in a banana republic, not our republic,” said former GOP President George W. Bush.

Trump, the defeated Oval Office occupant, egged the rioters on in a speech before their invasion, just after 1 p.m. Eastern Time. His message was magnified by right-wing social media.

And even when he later released a taped video statement telling them “to go home now,” he kept charging—without evidence, as usual—that the November election was stolen.

“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” meaning Democrats. He claimed Dems knew they lost in “a landslide…I know how you feel.” And “we love you,” Trump added. A later Trump tweet called rioters “great patriots” who voted for him in “a sacred election.”

Biden had a retort, live, before Trump’s video: “At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At the worst, they can incite.” He demanded Trump call the “insurrection” off. Trump didn’t.

Six lawmakers, led by “squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minn., immediately drafted and introduced a resolution to impeach Trump for inciting the mob.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor, noted the last time the U.S. Capitol was physically overwhelmed was in 1814, during the War of 1812. British troops invaded D.C., President James Madison had to flee, and the troops burned both the Capitol and the White House.

“Not even the Confederates invaded” the Capitol itself, Raskin said.

The overwhelmed Capitol police were later joined by the D.C. police, the city’s entire National Guard, FBI agents, Virginia state troopers, Homeland Security Department agents, riot police, and police officers from Baltimore and D.C.’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs. The police finally apparently cleared the building just before the city-imposed 6 p.m. curfew.

The rioters first massed in downtown D.C. near the White House, and had been converging on the city since Monday, when Mayor Muriel Bowser activated the National Guard and warned D.C. residents to stay out of downtown this week.

As night fell, some rioters could be seen leaving the Capitol, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, observing them from his office window. They walked down Capitol Hill away from the building and its surrounding offices for lawmakers. But hundreds of others remained. The police said on speakers “all intruders must leave…or be subject to arrest.”

Their objective was to stage the coup by stopping the electoral vote count, which would have certified Biden’s win. It came to a halt 15 minutes after it began when right-wing Trumpite GOP lawmakers formally objected to Biden’s receipt of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepared to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of Trump’s backers stormed the Congress. | Julio Cortez / AP

That forced the House and Senate to quit their joint counting session and adjourn for separate debates. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., denounced attempts to stop the count. Two other senators spoke before the invaders neared and the Senate was cleared.

“This will not deter Congress from certifying the election,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., declared. “Electoral college ballots were rescued from the Senate floor. If our capable staff hadn’t rescued them, they would have been burned by the mob,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said the ballots were in wooden boxes, and boxes and the state certificates were rescued.

Congressional leaders planned to resume the vote-counting during the evening, although questions of logistics remained—such as safely transporting lawmakers to an alternate location. Questions remained whether the building could be secured, and how to deal with the fact it’s now a crime scene.

McConnell reportedly tried to get the 12 Senate Republicans, led by Texas’s Ted Cruz and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, to drop their challenges. It was unclear if he succeeded.

Biden was asked at the end of his live press conference—not a video—in Wilmington, Del., whether he would change the inauguration, scheduled for the West Front on Jan. 20, but with only invited guests, not a crowd. “I am not concerned about my safety, my security and the inauguration…Enough is enough is enough,” he responded.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

Comments

comments