Thousands of rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in support of President Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon, breaking windows and using force to enter one of the nation’s most hallowed institutions.
Bay Area officials such as Mayor London Breed and District Attorney Chesa Boudin called the violence “an attempted coup” promoted by Trump himself.
“It’s a dark day for our democracy, and the culmination of all his anti-democratic words and actions from his campaign through his presidency,” Breed wrote on Twitter.
Members of the largely maskless crowd, many of whom wore Trump campaign paraphernalia or carried American flags, broke into the Capitol as Congress was set to certify the November election of President-elect Joe Biden, one of the governing body’s core constitutional duties.
The invasion threw Capitol Hill into a lockdown, prompting the evacuation of many members of Congress, their staffs and the press, while others who work in the building reportedly hid behind desks and chairs as Trump supporters forced their way inside.
It also led to the death of at least one person. A woman sustained a gunshot wound and was carried out on the Capitol steps on a stretcher before ultimately succumbing to her injuries. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. No other details have been provided about her identity or that of any possible suspects.
The Examiner confirmed Peninsula Congresswoman Jackie Speier was in a secure location. Though it was unable to confirm any details about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location, she did issue a joint statement with Sen. Chuck Schumer calling for Trump to quell the mob: “We are calling on President Trump to demand that all protesters leave the U.S. Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately.”
Lawmakers returned to a joint session later Wednesday night after the building had been secured, surrounded by a phalanx of security and law enforcement officials.
The siege of the Capitol was preceded by a string of comments from Republican officials attempting to cast doubt on the validity and legitimacy of November’s election.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and 10 other GOP senators issued a statement Jan. 2 perpetuating unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and announcing their intention to reject the certification process. They called for an emergency 10-day audit in “disputed states,” despite repeated findings from election officials, the courts and former Attorney General Bill Barr that there was no evidence of foul play.
On Wednesday, Trump spoke at a rally in Washington D.C. where he again described the election as “stolen” and called on his supporters to make their dissent known to lawmakers on the Hill.
Just hours later, images emerged of rioters clashing with law enforcement, shouting from the Senate Dais, and scaling the exterior walls of the Capitol. One Trump supporter broke into Pelosi’s office, where he was photographed sitting at her desk and putting his feet up on the table.
As lawmakers of both parties publicly called for peace, Trump remained largely silent for the first few hours, tweeting a vague message with his common refrain for “law and order:” “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, We are the Party of Law & Order — respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
The incoming president did what the current president refused to do. He unequivocally condemned the actions, likening it to “sedition.”
“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, unlike any things we’ve ever seen in modern times. An assault on the citadel of liberty, on the Capitol itself,” Biden said in a live public address, demanding Trump go on national television to end the violence. “I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”
Minutes later, Trump responded in a video of his own.
“We had an election that was stolen from us. You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order.”
Protests also arose at state capitols across the country including Sacramento, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to cancel his COVID-19 press conference “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a statement.
“Peaceful protest is an important mechanism of our democracy, but what we are witnessing in our nation’s Capitol building is reprehensible and an outright assault to our democracy and Democratic institutions,” he said.
The strong words continued from state Sen. Scott Wiener, who called for the “perpetrators” of the “mob violence” to be held accountable.
“What’s happening in our nation’s Capitol is nothing short of terrifying, and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in this country,” he said in a statement. “President Trump and his Republican sycophant enablers are responsible for this armed mob storming the Capitol. They’re responsible for the shutting down of our democratic process and for putting members of Congress, their staff, journalists and other Capitol employees in physical danger.”
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser instituted a 6 p.m. curfew citywide. Though local law enforcement had deployed tear gas to move people off the steps of Capitol Hill and the crowd had thinned slightly, hundreds more remained in the area near the grounds as night fell and curfew approached.
Bowser told CNN in a live interview that the Metropolitan Police Department had been fully mobilized to establish a curfew and enforce it, but she did not commit to whether or not officers would be arresting violators.
Here in San Francisco, at least two protests against the riots were scheduled, one near City Hall Wednesday afternoon and one in the Castro District, although the latter was moved online.
Local law enforcement said it would be monitoring and evaluating events, and that officers had been directed to increase patrols around government buildings in The City.
Chief Bill Scott told the San Francisco Police Commission Wednesday night there had been no “residual effects” of the riots locally.
“The good news is that at this point there is nothing to report in terms of any activity in our city,” he said. “There have been a couple of social media posts about potential protests but nothing of concern. We will keep an eye on that throughout the night and moving forward.”
S.F. Examiner Staff Writers Michael Barba and Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.