Vice President Pence vowed criminal consequences.
Security officials rushed Vice President Pence to shelter as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported she was “safe” at an undisclosed location while other Congress members were being evacuated by Capitol Police.
Lawmakers, staffers, journalists and others working inside the U.S. Capitol shared updates on the chaos after a mob stormed into the building Wednesday amid a protest over the 2020 presidential election results. At least one woman, described by police as a “civilian,” died.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said in an interview on Fox News that he overheard on a police officer’s radio a report of shots fired.
A female shooting victim was transported from the Capitol shortly before 3 p.m. At around 6 p.m., they reported that she had died from her wounds.
Videos shared on Twitter appeared to show a woman being treated for a gunshot wound to the neck in what looked to be a Capitol hallway.
It begins with a lot of shouting, then the sound of a single gunshot rings out and the woman is seen pressing a piece of fabric to her neck as someone puts pressure on the wound and attempts to help.
Pence condemned the “violence and destruction” in a Tweet after making it to safety and vowed that rioters would face criminal consequences.
“The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now,” he wrote. “Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, described the chaos in a news briefing later.
“The moment the vice president was rushed off the floor, the instructions were given to leave the chamber, and then immediately proceed to stay in the chamber,” Merkley said. “There was a sense that, yes, this is all about protesters. I think many of us are aware that protesters could be carrying arms. So there was certainly concern that there could be shooting, that there could be a breach of the chamber.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, called the chaos “a coup attempt.”
Some House members were taken to the Capitol’s secure basement, and law enforcement officers were reportedly defending the chambers with guns drawn.
Some were photographed wearing “escape hoods,” or lightweight gas masks, for protection as they prepared to go toward safety.
“Police have guns drawn,” Politico’s congressional reporter Olivia Beavers tweeted. “We are hiding behind chairs and tables on House gallery.”
A few minutes later, she was on the move, according to a follow-up tweet.
“Reporters aren’t allowed in the safe room where members were just escorted,” Beavers wrote. “Rep. Spanberger tried to push back for us, no luck. Heading to a member’s office with some other reporters.”
Spanberger later wrote that she was inside the House Chamber when “violent, far right protesters tried to break down the doors.”
“Thank you to the Capitol Police for keeping us safe and evacuating staff, reporters, and members of Congress to safety,” she said.
At least one protester reached the dais on the Senate floor, where he reportedly shouted, “Trump won that election.”
One photograph showed a protester sitting behind the desk in Pelosi’s office, others showed Capitol police with guns drawn, maintaining a barricade with protesters crowding the other side of a windowed door.
Capitol police had reclaimed the Senate chamber around 3:45 p.m. and were pushing into the House side.
Capitol Police urged anyone seeking refuge from the security breach to move inside the nearest office with emergency equipment and any legitimate visitors, lock the doors and windows, silence electronics and shelter in place. The building was placed on lockdown.
President Trump turned to Twitter to urge protesters to tone it down and demonstrate peacefully.
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he tweeted. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful,” he wrote a few minutes later. “No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
After the crowds failed to disperse, Trump posted a video message in which he again called the 2020 election “fraudulent” but urged peace and told demonstrators to “go home in peace.”
Earlier in the day, he had delivered a speech to a large outdoor crowd at a “Save America” rally where he reiterated his unproven claims that he won the 2020 presidential election.
President-elect Joe Biden called on the demonstrators to go home as well in televised remarks.
“America is so much better than what we’re seeing today,” he said. “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent who we are.”
Pelosi and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have requested the National Guard deploy to help police clear out the massive crowd of protesters. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed a short while later that the National Guard would be deployed to try and enforce some order.
Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said he was sending state troopers to help D.C. police restore order. Virginia state police were also sent in, and National Guard units from both states were reportedly deploying to the nation’s capital.
Bowser also ordered a citywide curfew from 6:00 p.m. Wednesday until 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 7. Shortly before it began, authorities began warning protesters over a loudspeaker that they would have to leave or face arrest. Around that time, people inside the Capitol building began reporting that authorities appeared to have regained control of the interior, and crowds on the outside were breaking up, although some people remained in smaller numbers.
In a joint statement, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney said authorities were clearing the Capitol and that lawmakers would return to their duties soon.
“When it is safe, we will return to complete our Constitutional responsibilities,” they said. “This is the United States. We will not allow mob rule to undermine the rule of law.”
Outside the Capitol, demonstrations appeared to be more orderly and peaceful, but police reported finding numerous suspicious packages, including at least three devices that looked like pipe bombs.
The FBI has joined the investigation into those incidents.