One of the most recognized symbols of representative democracy was desecrated on a day originally intended to finalize the electoral vote.
During the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory, a mob of Trump supporters charged the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to be evacuated by police. Vice President Mike Pence was rushed out of the Senate Chambers just as the Capitol building was placed on lockdown.
Hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators pushed passed law enforcement and barricades, breaching into the Capitol building. For a period of time, senators and members of the House were locked inside their respective chambers.
Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington declared a citywide curfew from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday. Many officials, including Biden, have urged President Donald Trump to call off the mobs.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege,” Biden said in brief remarks from Wilmington, Delaware.
Mack Shelley, chairman of the political science department, said it is clear Trump instigated the mobs.
“We don’t get attempted fascist-coups everyday,” Shelley said.
Trump released a minute-long video calling for peace while still reminding members of the mob “the election was stolen” and expressing the shared pain he felt over it. Trump also told his supporters to “go home,” adding “We love you.”
As chaos took the Capitol, discussion of impeachment proceedings began to surface as well.
“I assume Republicans would block it like they did before, but it would put Republicans in an awfully difficult position right now because it would almost literally be them saying they were in favor of an attempted coup to overturn democracy,” Shelley said.
The electoral count is expected to resume at 7 p.m. CST. Shelley said tensions won’t improve if Republican objections continue.
“Now that it is sort of directly connected with potentially a coup, you kind of hope that some degree of reason would take over,” Shelley said.
Steffen Schmidt, university professor emeritus in the political science department, said protests are a part of American politics and he expected challenges.
“When you incite protests beyond a certain reasonable point, they degenerate into intensity and then violence,” Schmidt said.
Shelley said as a result of the mobs, there could be cross-party consensus to dump Trump as a way to calm tensions.
Around 4:30 p.m., FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents entered the Dirksen Senate Office Building. One mob member was seen holding a sign from the entrance to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office after breaching into the Capitol.
Zack Bonner, lecturer in political science, expected some protests after the presidential election but never thought he would see people storming the Capitol.
“Your rights only go so far until they infringe upon someone else's,” Bonner said. “Freedom of speech only goes so far. The right to petition your government to address grievances and the right to gather, you do have that, but the second that turns violent, that crosses the line.”
Shelley said it is possible to charge select Republicans with sedition and supporting insurrection.
“Overall, I think it is absolutely ridiculous, and in some ways, it has kind of been egged on by the president,” Bonner said. “Just a really disturbing turn of events today."
The last time windows in the U.S. Capitol were breached was in The War of 1812 in 1814. Shelley said a lot of Trump supporters are literal Nazis, fascists and racists, and although that isn’t his entire base, it is who showed up today.
“You are going to have very deep divisions mainly because of Trump, sewing discord and essentially fermenting something like a civil war,” Shelley said. “It is his style but is also exactly what the hard right wing of the Republican party wants.”