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Guns drawn, one dead as Trump mob storms Capitol in 'attempted coup'

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Far-right Trump supporters, egged on by a speech from the President repeating claims of election fraud, have stormed the US Capitol, forcing police to barricade doors to the Senate and House of Representatives and keep protesters at bay at gunpoint as Congress met to certify president-elect Joe Biden’s win.

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Pro-Trump protesters scaled walls at the Capitol after breaking through police lines.

Trump supporters climb into the U.S. Capitol. Photo: AP/Jose Luis Magana

They then marched through the halls of Congress, forcing both chambers to suspend deliberations as they were meeting to certify Biden’s victory in the November 3 election.

A woman died after being shot during the storming, a spokeswoman for the Washington police department said.

No other details were available, the spokeswoman said. It remained unclear who shot the woman.

US network KUSI News later identified the woman as Ashli Babbitt, a 14-year veteran, who served four tours with the US Air Force, and was a high level security official throughout her time in service.

The network reported her husband saying she was a strong supporter of President Trump, and “a great patriot to all who knew her”.

Another three people were reported to have died from medical emergencies, according to police.

One protester occupied the Senate dais and yelled, “Trump won that election.”

Trump supporters outside the House of Representatives. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Police fired tear gas inside the building as the mob surged in.

Trump supporters amid teargas fired by police inside the Capitol. Photo: EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Police at the Capitol as demonstrators break past barriers. Photo: AP/Julio Cortez

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Trump, due to leave office on January 20, addressed thousands of protesters, repeating false claims that the election was stolen from him due to widespread election fraud and irregularities.

“We will never give up,” Trump said. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”

Lawmakers had been debating a last-ditch effort by pro-Trump lawmakers to challenge the results, an effort that was unlikely to succeed.

Vice President Mike Pence, who had presided over the joint session of Congress, had already been escorted from the Senate.

Capitol Police told lawmakers in the House chamber to take gas masks from beneath their seats and prepare to put them on. Officers at the front door of the House chamber had their guns drawn as someone attempted to enter the chamber.

Trump supporters inside the Capitol. Photo: EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Officers ordered people in the chamber to drop to the floor for their safety.

National Guard troops were deployed and a citywide curfew called for shortly after dusk, as rioters continued to occupy the capital for hours.

“At this hour our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times,” president-elect Joe Biden said, adding that what unfolded was, “an assault on the rule of law like few times we have ever seen it”.

Biden stopped short of accusing Trump of treason but said what happened “borders on sedition”.

“I call on this mob to pull back and allow democracy to go forward,” Biden said. “At their best the words of a president can inspire, at their worst they can incite.”

Biden also called on Trump to “go on national television now” to “demand an end to this siege”.

Video showed the Trump supporters breaking windows and police deploying tear gas inside the building.

Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said members of the crowd used chemical irritants to attack police and several had been injured.

The FBI said it had disarmed two suspected explosive devices.

It was the most damaging attack on the iconic building since the British army burned it in 1814, according to the US Capitol Historical Society.

Election officials of both parties and independent observers have said there was no significant fraud in the November 3 contest, which Biden won by more than seven million votes in the national popular vote.

Weeks have passed since the states completed certifying that Biden, a Democrat, won the election by 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232. Trump’s extraordinary challenges to Biden’s victory have been rejected by courts across the country.

Trump had pressed Pence to throw out election results in states the president narrowly lost, though Pence has no authority to do so.

The certification in Congress, normally a formality, was expected to stretch for several hours as some Republican lawmakers mounted an effort to reject some state tallies, starting with Arizona.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the effort, saying, “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

McConnell helped give Trump some of the biggest accomplishments of his presidency, including deep tax cuts and confirmation of conservative judicial nominees.

The voters, courts and states “have all spoken”, McConnell said on the Senate floor. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever,” he added.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called the challenges “an attempted coup” and said, “The Congress does not determine the outcome of an election. The people do.”

Armed police try to prevent Trump protesters breaking into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Outside the Capitol, members of militia groups and far-right groups, some in body armour, mingled with the crowds. Protesters chanting pro-Trump slogans overturned barricades and clashed with police.

A Trump supporter invades the office of US House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Police declared the Capitol building secure shortly after 5.30pm, more than three hours after it was breached.

Trump later issued a video in which he repeated claims that the election result was fraudulent, while asking protesting supporters to go home, and followed up with a tweet offering the protesters “love”.

Facebook and YouTube later took down the video, while Twitter removed the tweets and locked Trump’s account, threatening him with permanent suspension if he continued to violate the platform’s terms.

Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen tweeted that he social media company believed the video “contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence”, saying the action was part of “appropriate emergency measures”.

Google-owned YouTube said the video violated its policy against content that alleges “widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Election”. YouTube spokesman Farshad Shadloo added the company does allow copies that include additional context.

Twitter restricted users from retweeting the video “due to a risk of violence”, and also restricted a later tweet from Trump, again falsely alleging he had won the election.

Protesters target state governments

Pro-Trump protesters also massed outside statehouses from Georgia to New Mexico, leading some officials to evacuate.

News that protesters had breached the US Capitol set off cheers at pro-Trump protests in Minnesota, Nevada and Arizona, where armed protesters marched at the Capitol in Phoenix and several men displayed a guillotine.

Georgia’s secretary of state and his staff evacuated their offices at the Capitol as about 100 protesters gathered outside, some armed with guns.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his team decided to leave, according to Gabriel Sterling, a top official with Raffensperger’s office.

“We saw stuff happening at the Georgia Capitol and said we should not be around here, we should not be a spark,” Sterling told The Associated Press.

Trump has focused much of his ire on Raffensperger in the weeks following his loss by about 12,000 votes.

Business backlash

The head of a US business group representing 14,000 companies including Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and Toyota has urged senior US officials to consider removing Donald Trump from office after his supporters stormed the Capitol.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said Trump “incited violence in an attempt to retain power and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favour of anarchy”.

Timmons said Vice President Mike Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.”

 

Former US President Barack Obama says the storming of the US Capitol was incited by Trump.

“History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonour and shame for our nation,” Obama said in a statement.

Late this morning, Australian time, the senate reconvened, with defeated Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler dramatically changing her stated plan to join a small group of senators planning to challenge Congress’ vote to certify Biden’s victory.

Australian politicians react

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the attack on the US Congress.

“The riots and protests we’ve seen in Washington DC have been terribly distressing,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“We hope for a peaceful and stable transition of government to the new administration elected by the American people.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese described the protests as a “tragedy”.

“There is no doubt that the words and actions of Donald Trump have encouraged this activity,” Albanese told reporters in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

“Democracy is precious. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. It should be defended anywhere in the world.”

Two former Australian prime ministers also expressed their outrage on Twitter.

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd described it as a physical attack on the institutions of democracy by a “far right mob”.

“All because of extremist statements by political leaders attacking the legal results of a democratic election, echoed faithfully by a cancerous far right media,” Rudd tweeted.

“This affects us all.”

Former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull said the mob violence was the culmination of Trump’s sustained assault on American democracy.

“The President should call on the mob he incited to disperse and go home,” he tweeted.

“And Trump’s supporters in the GOP and the media should reflect on what they have enabled.”

-with AP, AAP

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