Police secure U.S. Capitol after pro-Trump rioters breached complex, used ‘chemical irritants’

Heavily armed police have secured the U.S. Capitol nearly four hours after supporters of President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced themselves inside the complex on Wednesday, amid violent clashes that killed at least one person.

Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress’s formal approval of president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the general election, pushing unfounded claims that the election was stolen.

An announcement saying “the Capitol is secure” rang out Wednesday evening inside a secure location for officials of the House. Lawmakers applauded, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement the government intended to resume counting electoral votes later Wednesday.

One woman killed

Washington police said at least one woman was shot inside the Capitol and died later at an area hospital. It was not immediately clear how she was shot.

Protesters deployed “chemical irritants on police” to gain access to the complex, Chief Robert Contee said. Several police officers were injured.

Members of the D.C. National Guard are deployed outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

At least five weapons have been recovered and at least 13 people have been arrested so far, Contee said.

An explosive device was found nearby, but law enforcement officials said Wednesday afternoon it was no longer a threat.

Outside, as darkness began to set in, law enforcement officials worked their way toward the protesters, using percussion grenades to try to clear the area around the Capitol. Big clouds of tear gas were visible.

Police in full riot gear moved down the west steps, clashing with demonstrators.

Trump supporters defying curfew

The Pentagon said about 1,100 D.C. National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement.

A spokesperson told The Associated Press that officers from the Federal Protective Service and U.S. Secret Service agents were being sent to the scene. He said they were requested to assist by U.S. Capitol Police.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier declared a 6 p.m. ET curfew, but early in the evening dozens of pro-Trump supporters remained on the streets of the nation’s capital.

WATCH | Pro-Trump protesters storm barricades at U.S. Capitol:

Thousands of people protested at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., crashing through barricades and climbing the steps as Congress voted to certify Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. 2:05

Lawmakers told to don gas masks

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, chambers abruptly recessed as dozens of people breached security perimeters and lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the rotunda.

A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the chamber and lawmakers tried to gather information about what was happening.

Protesters made it inside the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled “Trump won that election.” Several dozen were roaming through the halls, yelling, “Where are they?” Some were also in the visitors’ galleries.

A recorded announcement was played inside the Capitol that, due to an “external security threat,” no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex.

The skirmishes outside occurred in the very spot where Biden will be inaugurated in just two weeks.

Protesters tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and were met by officers in riot gear.

Some tried to push past the officers who held shields, and officers could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd. Some in the crowd were shouting “traitors” as officers tried to keep them back.

The skirmishes came shortly after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters, riling up the crowd with his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally near the White House on Wednesday ahead of Congress’s vote.

WATCH | CBC reporter mobbed by angry Trump supporters in Washington:

Senior correspondent Katie Nicholson and her videographer were verbally accosted and jostled as the team reported from the streets of Washington. 0:45

“We will not let them silence your voices,” Trump told the protesters, who had lined up before sunrise to get a prime position to hear the president. 

After the Capitol was first breached, Trump encouraged supporters in a tweet to “remain peaceful,” but didn’t call for them to disperse.

Biden urges Trump to call for end to ‘siege’ 

Biden, who said U.S. democracy was under “unprecedented assault,” called on Trump to go on national television and demand an end to “this siege.”

Shortly afterward, Trump released a video on Twitter that repeated false statements about the election being stolen, but also told protesters to “go home now.”

Vice-President Mike Pence had earlier called on protesters to leave immediately.

In a tweet Pence said, “This attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trudeau expresses concern

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern about the violent scenes.

“Obviously we’re concerned and we’re following the situation minute by minute,” Trudeau told the Vancouver radio station News 1130. “I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly.”

Elsewhere in the U.S., Trump supporters massed outside statehouses from Georgia to New Mexico, leading to some evacuations as cheers rang out in reaction to the news that pro-Trump demonstrators had stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Hundreds of people gathered in state capitals across the country, waving signs saying “Stop the Steal” and “Four more years,” most of them not wearing masks despite the coronavirus pandemic. A few carried long guns in places like Oklahoma and Georgia.

New Mexico state police evacuated staff from a Statehouse building that includes the governor’s office and the secretary of state’s office as a precaution shortly after hundreds of flag-waving supporters arrived in a vehicle caravan and on horseback.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol amid Wednesday’s violent protests in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

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