WASHINGTON — Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday afternoon, interrupting the congressional session that was meeting to confirm the Electoral College votes.
Hundreds of protesters were shown on TV news coverage walking through Statuary Hall without having gone through any security checkpoints. Debate was halted, and lawmakers were ordered to return to their offices and shelter in place. Legislators were told they may need to hide under their chairs and to be quiet and not draw attention to themselves.
Vice President Mike Pence and some lawmakers were evacuated from the building, and media reports indicated that there was an armed standoff between law enforcement officials and invaders. Photos and video from inside the House chamber showed police with guns drawn.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol must stop and it must stop now,” Pence tweeted. “Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building. Peaceful protest is the right of every American but this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
CNN aired an image that appeared to show a protester sitting in the chair from which Pence had been presiding over the Senate session, and similar images were circulating on social media.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from Ohio also issued statements on the protests:
Sen. Rob Portman: “The right to protest peacefully is protected under the Constitution but the actions by violent mobs against our law enforcement and property at the US Capitol building today are not. President Trump should condemn this unacceptable vandalism and violence.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown: “My staff and I are safe. The violence at the Capitol needs to end now. The lives of countless workers – journalists, staff, and Capitol Police are being put at risk by this attack on our democracy.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (4th District): “Stop the violence. Support Capitol Police.”
Rep. Troy Balderson (12th District): “The violent behavior occurring on Capitol Hill this afternoon does not change our U.S. Constitution or the laws Congress is sworn to uphold. As I’ve stated many times, violence has never been the answer and I strongly condemn these actions. … I implore all those participating to cease the violence and I urge (President Donald Trump) to call for this violence to stop immediately. It’s time for our nation to come together. This violence is not the way forward.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also weighed in on the situation, taking to Twitter to offer his comments.
“The situation at the U.S. Capitol is an embarrassment to our country,” DeWine tweeted. “This must stop immediately. The President should call for the demonstrators to leave our Capitol Building. The final step in the constitutional process of electing our president has been disrupted. The stopping of the count of the Electoral College votes has occurred because the security of the U.S. Capitol has been breached by a violent mob. As a nation of laws, this is simply not acceptable. Lawlessness is not acceptable.
“This is an affront to our Constitution and everything we hold dear. Those who breached the Capitol breached the Constitution,” DeWine added. “Peaceful demonstrations outside the Capitol are an exercise of the demonstrators’ First Amendment rights. Stopping the constitutional process by which we elect the president is not.”
The Associated Press, citing a source, said one person was shot at the U.S. Capitol during the confrontation with protesters. The shooting victim’s condition is not known.
The protesters appeared to have come from a rally earlier in the day in which Trump condemned, as he has repeatedly since November, the results of the Nov. 3 election that made former Vice President Joe Biden the president-elect.
Capitol Police put out calls to several other agencies to provide assistance after getting overrun, and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has put in place a 6 p.m. curfew and asked for the Washington, D.C., National Guard to be called up.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has said he is sending members of the Virginia National Guard along with 200 Virginia State Troopers to Washington at the mayor’s request. About 1,100 D.C. National Guard troops were also being activated, a Washington Post reporter said.
Trump asked the protesters to avoid violence, tweeting “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue.”
The Center Square contributed to this report.