WASHINGTON D.C., DC — A mob of rioters from a pro-Trump protest forced their way into the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon as lawmakers gathered to certify Electoral College votes following the 2020 presidential election.
Officials said that members of Congress were escorted out after protests escalated, and that several protesters chanted "this is our house" as they made their way through the Capitol halls and into the Senate Chamber. Pepper spray was used, according to several videos of the incident
A woman died from her wounds after she was shot inside the U.S. Capitol Building as rioters tried to break into the House Chamber, according to the Associated Press. It is not yet known what exactly led to the woman being shot.
Before evacuating to safety, lawmakers donned gas masks as police dispersed tear gas inside the Capitol Rotunda. Numerous lawmakers, including Senators who formally challenged the presidential election confirmation, condemned the actions — calling the actions "truly despicable and unacceptable."
Several Tennessee lawmakers shared their experiences of the incident online. Congressman Tim Burchett said that he was okay following the incident in a post on Twitter. A few minutes before that, he said that the House floor was locked down.
"I saw some people scurrying and they were telling us, 'keep in your seats,'" Burchett said during an interview with WBIR. He said that he stayed in the room a little longer while people were evacuated, to ensure that they were safe.
He said that people started banging on the doors while he was inside. However, he also said that he was in a similar situation years ago, during an incident involving income taxes in Tennessee. Then, he said that something went through the glass on the Senate floor.
No information was immediately available what that could have been.
"The Capitol Police, who are wonderful, finally said, 'Congressman, you got to get off the floor now. We gotta get you out of here,'" he said. "I saw a guy run down the hall with an AR [a Capitol Police member], and guns were drawn."
He said that the entire incident lasted about 15 minutes, from when the clashes began to when lawmakers were escorted off the floor.
"You really just got a bunch of thugs out there," he said. "Bunch of dirtbags. You know, they're not going to one-on-one come after Tim Burchett, they're going to be 50 of them or something crazy like that."
Sen. Marsha Blackburn also said that she was safe and was sheltering in place Wednesday afternoon. The Republican condemned the protests "in the strongest possible terms."
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann also said that he was safe in an interview with WBIR. The Ooltewah resident said he and his staff had taken shelter in the Rayburn House Office Building after evacuating from the Cannon House Office Building, where he works and where he was when the Trump supporters ran up to the Capitol.
"We are safe," he told 10News."We are sequestered. I am just very saddened by the events of the day."
When asked if he thought President Trump should call on the protesters to stand down, Fleischmann said he called on everyone to condemn the violent protests.
"We cannot tolerate this type of behavior, and it's just a sad reflection of where our republic is right now," he said.
He continued: "We have seen over the last few years the erosion of so many fundamental freedoms. People in America are bitterly divided for a lot of reasons and I think what we need to have is a national healing process that has got to be sincere."
Bill Hagerty also responded to the incident, condemning the incident and calling it violent — "What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence."
Officials said that the protesters gathered outside the Senate chamber at one point, around 2:15 p.m.
At around 1:46 p.m., Representative Elaine Luria tweeted that her office was evacuated after reports of a pipe bomb, which sounded like gunshots. Officials said that protesters began to remove the metal barricades and the protest escalated at around 1:30 p.m.
President Donald Trump posted a response to the rioting on Wednesday, at around 3:15 p.m. Before his tweet, he called for people to "support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement" and to stay peaceful.
In a video Trump later posted around 4 p.m., the president repeated the baseless claim the election had been "stolen" from him -- and called rioters who stormed the Capitol Wednesday "special people," asking them to "go home with love & in peace." Twitter and Facebook later removed the post and others that appeared to justify the violence, and Twitter locked the president's personal account for "severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy."
"These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump claimed in the video.
Lawmakers on all sides continued to plead for the president to denounce the rioting at the Capitol and to swiftly act.
"I want you to act, now," Burchett said, referring to President Trump. "I want you to act now. Because I still think our Capitol Police are heroes, but they were outmanned. And I think they needed to get some help up here."
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs responded to a Tweet from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul Wednesday, who said "violence and mob rule is wrong and un-American."
"Agreed. What is happening at the capital today is absolutely despicable and shameful," Jacobs said.
On Thursday, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs issued the following statement:
“Like other Americans, I was appalled and disgusted at the images coming out of the Capitol yesterday. In a constitutional republic, differences are settled with intellectual debate, not violence. We have just lived through a summer of the worst riots and civil unrest in a generation. Sadly, the issue isn’t confined only to hometown streets, but has permeated our society and even extended to hallowed institutions, as illustrated by two members of the United States House of Representatives nearly coming to blows on the chamber floor early Thursday morning. Everywhere we turn, we see frustration, anger, divisiveness, political opportunism, and resentment. To overcome that and move forward, we are going to have to learn to listen to one another, to respect one another, to work together when we can, and to agree to peacefully disagree when we can’t. There simply is no other way. I believe this has to start with each of us as individuals and within our local communities.”
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon "unequivocally" condemned Wednesday's rioting -- calling it an "attack on democracy."
The Knox County Democratic Party also released a statement about the riots. They said that several members of congress contributed to disinformation and "Q-anon" tropes, as well as claiming they helped fuel the rage behind the rioters.
"Without qualification, we condemn the actions of the terrorists today and the rhetoric that incited them," they said in a release. "Further, we call on these same officials to demand that law and order be restored and the democratic procedures enshrined in the Constitution be respected so that the difficult work of democratic government can be resumed."
Law enforcement officials said that one woman inside the Capitol during the violence.
United States Attorney J. Douglas Overbey said, “I am shocked and appalled by the mob violence that occurred yesterday in our nation’s Capitol." “As the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, which carries with it a duty to uphold the Rule of Law." “Our office remains dedicated to preserving the public’s constitutional right to peaceably assemble, demonstrate, and petition the government for a redress of grievances. However, it is also our duty to protect citizens from violence and criminal activity. Accordingly, where appropriate under the facts, our office will consider the prosecution of those whose conduct crosses the line from peaceful protest to violence and other criminal activity in violation of federal law.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information is available.