The U.S. Capitol locked down Wednesday with lawmakers inside as violent clashes broke out between supporters of President Donald Trump and police.
An announcement was played inside the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting and expected to vote to affirm Joe Biden’s victory. Due to an “external security threat,” no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex, the recording said.
Both chambers abruptly went into recess.
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 to keep them back. Some in the crowd were shouting “traitors” as officers tried to keep them back.
Lawmakers were evacuated after protesters breached security and entered the building.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senators were led out, escorted by staff and police. Members of the House were also being evacuated.
Soon after, members of Congress still inside the House chamber were told by police to put on gas masks after tear gas was dispersed in the Capitol Rotunda amid clashes with supporters of President Donald Trump.
Law enforcement instructed lawmakers to retrieve masks from under their seats as Trump supporters marched through evacuated public spaces in the building.
Protesters could be seen marching through the Capitol’s stately Statuary Hall shouting and waving Trump banners and American flags.
Some House lawmakers tweeted they were sheltering in place in their offices.
A suspicious package was also reported in the area, Capitol Police said.
The clashes came just 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’ vote.
“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 egging on protests, Trump tweeted to his supporters to “stay peaceful” as they violently clashed with law enforcement. “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country,” he said.
Meanwhile critics called on Trump to put an end to the protests immediately.
Among those urging Trump to act: his former communications director, Alyssa Farah, who tweeted that Trump should “Condemn this now.” She said, “you are the only one they will listen to. For our country!”
Trump’s former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tweeted: “The President’s tweet is not enough. He can stop this now and needs to do exactly that. Tell these folks to go home.”
His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also addressed Trump supporters in a tweet, calling them the “patriots challenging the fraudulent election” and telling them that “POTUS wants you to EXPRESS YOUR OPINION PEACEFULLY.”