Battle at the hill: rioters storm the nation’s capital

On Wednesday afternoon, violent protesters swarmed the Capitol building, forcing lawmakers to evacuate for their safety, as well as delaying the counting of the electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.

On Wednesday afternoon, pro-Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol building, breaching barricades, breaking windows, and spewing violence, which resulted in approximately 52 arrests and 4 deaths, as of right now.

But it didn’t start this way.

What sparked the chaos?

At 9 a.m., hundreds of people gathered at the Capitol, huddled in the cold winter weather as they waved around signs and flags, hoping the outcome of the November election would be in President Donald Trump’s favor. 

At 11 a.m., thousands gathered at the National Mall, where the president was set to speak for the ‘Save America March.’ As Congress prepared to count the electoral votes, clarifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win, the president urged his supporters to march on Congress. Supporters turned to social media sites, such as Gab and Parler, to organize the storming of Capitol Hill, providing directions to avoid police, requesting tools to help pry open doors, and mentioning carrying guns into the building. 

At around 2 p.m., the revolution began. Marchers entered the building. Guns were aimed at the door. Rioters hung from the balcony in the Senate Chamber. Lawmakers ran for cover. 

Vice President Mike Pence, along with members of Congress, immediately evacuated the scene. 

A woman was shot in the neck and taken to the hospital, where was eventually pronounced dead. Dozens of arrests were made. Pipe bombs were also found on the ground outside.

Soon, the U.S. Capitol Police ordered a lockdown, preventing more from entering the building. An overnight curfew for the city was set. Within 3 hours, the Capitol was secure and the counting for the electoral results was resumed.

How did President Trump address this?

President Trump released a 1 minute and 7-second video statement on his Twitter account after colleagues urged him to make an announcement. In the video, he called for his supporters to “go home in peace” and saying “we love you, you’re very special.” He acknowledged how he understood how they felt and continued to make inaccurate claims about the election being stolen. The video was then removed on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Trump then posted a series of Tweets, one saying, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!” The tweet was removed by Twitter, followed by two others.

Twitter then proceeded to lock Trump’s account for 12 hours, warning the possibility of ‘permanent suspension’ if he continues to violate its policies.

How did the country react?

Photos documenting the riot began flooding social media. Images of lawmakers running for cover, rioters breaking into the offices of members of Congress, and Trump supporters setting up an execution scaffold represented some of the defining moments that would make it in history books. 

Activists began pointing out the differences in how law enforcement and the media responded to both the Black Lives Matter protests and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. During the Black Lives Matter protests, many were met with immediate, violent force using rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray. On the contrary, there was less force being put on the rioters at the Capitol. Some say there was even a delayed response, viewing it as a double standard.

There was a video posted on social media that showed law enforcement removing barriers outside the Capitol building, allowing the rioters to enter inside. Another video showed a demonstrator, who had breached the Capitol, taking selfies with an officer. Officials were also shown peacefully escorting people out of the building, a different approach compared to the one used for Black Lives Matter demonstrators. 

“Make no mistake, if the protesters were Black, we would have been tear-gassed, battered, and perhaps shot,” Black Lives Matter Global Network said in an article for USA Today.

By the evening, officers began using tear gas and percussion grenades to clear crowds, in contrast to their instantaneous approach during Black Lives Matter protests.

Protesters were called terrorists or looters. President Trump even called them thugs while saying that the people involved in the riots were “great patriots.”

In a USA Today article, Kofi Ademola, a local Chicago activist who organized peaceful protests during the summer said, “It’s not any shock that we see this huge contradiction that we can storm a capitol … break into elected officials’ offices, the chamber, and create other chaos trying to perform a fascist coup, and we see little to no consequences,” he said. “But Black protesters here in D.C. and Chicago, we’re heavily policed, brutalized, for literally saying, ‘Don’t kill us.’ There was no planned insurrections. We were literally just advocating for our lives. It speaks volumes about the values of this country. It doesn’t care about our lives.”

What’s happening now?

While lawmakers were rushed out of the House and Senate chambers, staff members ensured that the ballots were placed in a secure location.

Congress reconvened on Wednesday night to finish counting the votes. At 3:39 a.m., it was announced that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the 2020 presidential election. Trump pledged an ‘orderly transition’ to Biden, who will take his place in the White House on January 20th.

Although the 2020 presidential election is finally over, the social unrest in our country is continuing to intensify day by day. The riots and the disastrous turn of events were the first to occur in 2021, but they’re certainly not the last.