WASHINGTON — The U.S. Capitol descended into chaos Wednesday as hundreds of pro-Trump protesters swarmed the building, forcing the Senate to evacuate and Vice President Mike Pence to be ushered to a secure location.
The frenzied scene after demonstrators broke through barricades forced Congress to evacuate parts of the building and abruptly pause a ceremonial event affirming that President-elect Joe Biden won the November election.
Pence, who was presiding over the joint session, could be seen rushing out of the Senate chamber amid the sounds of protesters who surrounded the Capitol. Pence and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the president pro-tem, were taken to a secure location, a senator told NBC News.
The doors of the Senate were closed and locked, and senators were told to stay away from the doors.
The chaotic situation came after Trump, who has refused to accept the results of the election, spoke to a large crowd in front of the White House. He angriled vowed that he would never concede to Biden and baselessly asserted that the election results were fraudulent.
“We will never give up, we will never concede. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” Trump said to a crowd of supporters, some of whom chanted “USA!” or waved anti-Biden banners. He later falsely claimed that Biden would be an “illegitimate” president.
The U.S. Capitol Police said it was evacuating areas near the building as pro-Trump protesters stormed barricades set up outside the perimeter, and law enforcement officers were seen trying to push them back.
The Library of Congress, directly across the street from the main Capitol building, was evacuated and people were told to remain calm and move in a safe manner to the exits.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” Trump tweeted.
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., tweeted that she had to evacuate her congressional office because a pipe bomb was reported outside the Capitol. “Supporters of the President are trying to force their way into the Capitol and I can hear what sounds like multiple gunshots,” Luria tweeted.
The Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, just steps from Capitol Hill, was evacuated earlier Wednesday due to a suspicious package, and investigation was underway.
Trump’s groundless claims of voter fraud have been widely debunked, and his legal team’s efforts to challenge the election results in court have been rejected by a succession of judges. Trump has claimed Wednesday’s joint session of Congress represents a chance to overturn the election, even though state electors have already certified the results and the event inside the Capitol is ceremonial.
This is unbelievable.