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Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol: What Happened and What Happens Now

The Beginning 

Every four years, Congress holds a joint session on January 6th to certify Electoral College votes. The meeting, as described in the Constitution, gives members of Congress the opportunity to object to the election’s results. Several senators and representatives took this exact course of action last week, despite the fact that there has been no evidence of widespread election fraud.

But, as these objections were being debated, President Donald Trump was speaking at a “Save America” rally only miles away. There, he continued to peddle the idea of a fraudulent election and even encouraged his supporters to march to the United States Capitol to “peacefully and patriotically make [their] voices heard.” President Trump’s remarks, as well as plans made online in the weeks leading up to the speech, have been linked to the events that took place in the following hours.

Many of the president’s supporters, inspired by his address, set out from the Ellipse for the Capitol. After pushing past barriers and clashing with police, they were able to storm the building. Videos shared online show more instances of destruction and violence, including footage captured of rioters breaking windows in an effort to enter the Capitol. 

Though many did use force to enter the Capitol, some appeared to have been left untouched by the Capitol Police. In a video posted by Marcus DiPaola, officers are seen moving metal barriers out of the crowd’s path and then proceeding to walk away. Inside the Capitol, one officer was seen taking photos with rioters, and another donned Trump merchandise while directing the crowd. 

Multiple officers have been suspended as a review of  “video and other open source materials…that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies” takes place, according to a statement from Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of U.S. Capitol Police.

The Capitol was eventually forced into lockdown, and prominent politicians were whisked away to secure locations. Vice President Mike Pence, who was acting as the presiding official in the Senate chamber, was one of those quickly escorted out.

At that point, even more chaos broke out inside the Capitol. People freely roamed the building, with some causing further destruction by ransacking the offices of legislators. One man was arrested after posing for a picture with a stolen lectern belonging to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

However, crowds still remained outside these walls, with many significant people among them. Derrick Evans, a Republican lawmaker, has now been federally charged after he live-streamed himself and a mob of rioters storming the Capitol. He is one of several lawmakers who is known to have attended last week’s event. 

Also among the crowds: a variety of flags. Several images depict people holding Trump flags, Confederate flags, and Gadsden flags that use the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me.” Most notably, this event marks the first time the Confederate flag has entered the Capitol. Also in photographs from that day, numerous rioters were seen wearing Trump merchandise. Some had even gone as far as to wear anti-Semitic messages such as  “Camp Auschwitz.” 

Five deaths have resulted from this riot. The identities of two of the dead, Ashli Babbitt and Brian Sicknick, have been publicized.

State Capitols

While some of President Trump’s supporters flew out to descend on Capitol Hill, many staged their own rallies at state capitol buildings across the country. In Sacramento, at least eleven people have been arrested for illegally possessing pepper spray during demonstrations at the State Capitol. Video from the Sacramento Bee shows some attendees holding signs with phrases such as “Stop the Steal” written on them.

Two Addresses 

In a somber speech, President-elect Joe Biden strongly condemned the actions of those at the Capitol and stated that this was “not protest,” but “insurrection.” He also asserted that January 6th’s events should serve as a “reminder…that democracy is fragile.” Most striking, though, was President-elect Biden calling for President Trump to appear on national television immediately.

President Trump responded to President-elect Biden’s call with a video posted on Twitter. His statement was short, telling his supporters to respect the law and leave the Capitol premises in peace. Before signing off, however, President Trump appeared to reassure his supporters: “We love you. You’re very special,” he said. To some, it seemed that he was not condemning those at Capitol for an act of insurrection, but applauding them for their unwavering support.

The Response

The D.C. National Guard mobilized later that day, after an order to deploy them was reportedly approved by Vice President Pence. Members of the National Guard and local law enforcement managed to secure the Capitol building. However, this relief came hours after the unrest had begun, prompting some criticism of how the situation was handled. 

So far, more than one hundred people have been arrested for their part in the event that took place at the Capitol, and many additional arrests and charges are expected in the near future.

The Impact

While the world discusses last week’s events on a variety of social media platforms, many of those same platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, have suspended President Trump either permanently or temporarily. Youtube has done so most recently, suspending the president’s channel for at least seven days starting January 12th. However, the most controversial of these suspensions was that of Trump’s Twitter account, which was permanently suspended “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

The political fallout is also ongoing, following the resignations of several Trump administration officials. Among the more than ten officials who have relinquished their positions are former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who were the first and second cabinet members to resign. It was later confirmed that five National Security Council officials had also resigned. 

Due to last week’s events at the Capitol, many members of Congress have discussed removing the president from office though a House impeachment and Senate conviction. On January 13th, 222 House Democrats, as well as ten House Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump for incitement of insurrection. It is important to note that, just one year ago, the Republican Party was almost unanimously opposed to the idea of impeachment. 

The New York Times has also reported that the current Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, “believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses.” According to people familiar with him, Sen. McConnell’s long-term goal is to remove President Trump from the Republican Party. Democrats may have made that easier with President Trump’s historic second impeachment.

The Senate trial is likely to begin after President-elect Biden’s inauguration, an event that President Trump has previously stated that he would not be attending. 

In Conclusion

The United States will, without a doubt, continue to grapple with the ramifications of January 6th, even as President-elect Biden’s inauguration approaches. But, in the end, Congress was finally able to do what they had meant to do on that fateful day. They certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, with his 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

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