An extremist mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters violently breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the presidential vote certification process and forcing Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to evacuate the chambers. The Capitol was cleared and secured by police after hours of insurgent occupation, leaving multiple officers injured and at least one hospitalized.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a curfew in response to the unrest, beginning 6 p.m. Wednesday night and ending 6 a.m. Thursday morning. The D.C. National Guard was deployed to the area two hours after rioters gained entry into the building, following a request by Bowser which was initially denied by the Department of Defense. The D.C. Council released a statement supporting the mayor’s move, saying they were “appalled” by the initial denial. The deployment, apparently approved by Pence and not the president, came after reports that a woman had been fatally shot in the Capitol building. At the time of publication, rioters remain in the D.C. streets despite the implemented curfew.
Hannah Miller (COL ’23), who lives and grew up in Alexandria, Va. outside of D.C., described the scene in an interview with the Voice. “It feels very surreal to watch it on the TV because I know that that’s two miles from my house, but it feels like it’s a million miles away,” they said, noting the sound of helicopters overhead. “I grew up near that building, so the fact that they’re breaking windows, it doesn’t feel real that people would have that much disrespect for the government.”
Many of the perpetrators are believed to be staying in Alexandria hotels, according to Miller. Their presence moved Miller’s family and their neighbors to remain inside and remove political signs, including Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, from their residences. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ordered a curfew for the city, as well as Arlington County, also starting at 6 p.m.
Georgetown University sent out a HOYAlert Wednesday afternoon announcing the curfew and advising local students to stay home. No unrest has been detected on campus, but the update noted that the Georgetown University Police Department is monitoring the situation and working with local authorities. The university encouraged students to stay in their residences and not engage with the demonstrators. Those living on campus could access grab-and-go meals from Royal Jacket until 6 p.m., and the DuPont GUTS Bus was suspended at 5:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, the university sent an email to students about the anticipated unrest, referring to them as “First Amendment demonstrations.” The email encouraged students to use caution and report threatening behavior, relaying Bowser’s request that those living in the area stay out of downtown D.C. on Jan. 5 and 6.
The violence was incited after a weeks-long campaign by Republican members of Congress to overturn the election results in Trump’s favor. Fourteen Republican senators, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, announced their plan to challenge the election’s certification alongside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a majority of House Republicans. Since president-elect Joe Biden’s victory in November, the Trump administration has repeatedly stonewalled the typical transition process.
The violence sprung from the anticipated “Save America March,” which Trump promoted on Twitter. The president also spoke in-person at the march earlier Wednesday morning before the Capitol was breached. As the violence escalated, the president responded with a video still claiming the election was fraudulent.
Miller condemned the pro-Trump rioters for obstructing Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election, and by extension, the voters. “Instead of fighting for democracy, they’re fighting against it,” they said. The House is expected to resume its joint session to certify Biden’s election tonight.
Moments before the release of Trump’s video, Biden addressed the situation, noting that the attack “borders on sedition.” Biden called for the president to speak out against the violent attacks he incited.
“It’s not a protest. It’s insurrection. The world is watching. Like so many other Americans, I am genuinely shocked and saddened that our nation so long the beacon of light and hope for democracy has come to such a dark moment,” Biden said.