Washington: The US Capitol building has been put in lockdown and multiple congressional buildings have been evacuated following increasingly violent protests by supporters of President Donald Trump as the Congress began the debate on certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
According to CNN, shortly after 1 pm ET (11:30 pm IST), pro-Trump protesters pushed through barriers set up along the perimeter of the US Capitol Building, chanting ‘USA! USA!’ and waving American flags, as well as flags reading ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’
What Trump supporters demand?
A crowd of Trump supporters estimated to be in the thousands travelled to Washington on Wednesday to pressure lawmakers and Vice President Pence to overturn the results of the election. Pence noted earlier in the day that he does not have the power to object to electors, reported The Hill.
The US Capitol was breached during a tense situation with demonstrators, according to Capitol police officers.
“Due to an INTERNAL threat in the building, take shelter in the nearest office and stay quiet,” said the police.
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.
In some instances, law enforcement officers were seen deploying pepper spray, while the use of flash bangs and tear gas was also witnessed, reported CNN.
Fox News reported citing a congressional source that the Cannon House Office Building and Madison Library of Congress Building were briefly evacuated because of a bomb threat after several suspicious packages were reportedly found in the area.
The US Capitol complex has been placed on lockdown. An announcement played that said in the US Capitol said to “move away from windows and doors” and “no one can leave or enter”, although people were allowed to move about inside the building.
Buildings being evacuated included the Library of Congress’s Madison Building across from the Capitol as well as the Cannon House office building. In an alert sent to Hill staffers, police ordered occupants of the Madison building to “move in a safe manner to the exists” and “close doors behind you but do not lock”, reported The Hill.
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser also announced a citywide curfew till 6 am ET, Thursday, following the violent protests.
“Today, I’m ordering a citywide curfew for the District of Columbia from 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6, until 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 7,” she announced on Twitter.
Electoral College certification vote
Meanwhile, the Electoral College certification vote has been paused following the breach of the Capitol building by protesters, and Vice President Pence was taken from the Senate chamber.
Reacting to the protests, Trump urged the protesters to support Capitol police and stay peaceful.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!” he tweeted.
Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy also took to Twitter to urge the protesters to remain peaceful.
“Thank you to Capitol Police for protecting the People’s House. Protesters have a Constitutionally-protected right to be heard, but I urge them to remain peaceful,” McCarthy tweeted.
Representative Adam Kinsinger, a Republican, called the breach of the Capitol building a “coup attempt”
The development comes as scores of Republicans have pledged to challenge the Electoral College’s vote for Biden when Congress convenes for a joint session on Wednesday.
Trump has urged supporters to travel to Washington to protest the outcome, and state and federal officials are already bracing for clashes outside the Capitol.
President-elect Biden’s inauguration is scheduled for January 20.