US President-elect Joe Biden denounced President Donald Trump for failing to stop his supporters from storming the Capitol on Wednesday, calling them “extremists” and describing their violent acts as an “insurrection” against American democracy.
“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault,” Biden said in a speech from Wilmington, Delaware, where his transition team is based. “An assault on the citadel of liberty – the Capitol itself.”
“I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward,” he said. “I call on President Trump: go on national television now, fulfil his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
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Biden’s remarks came as the country and much of the world watched in shock as mobs of fervent Trump supporters overpowered US Capitol Police officers and smashed their way into the Capitol, breaking windows, climbing in and marching into the Senate chamber itself as well as the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The crowd had interrupted what was supposed to be the final step in Biden’s victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election. In the early afternoon, a joint session of Congress began to certify the US electoral college vote, formally declaring Biden the president-elect.
While typically a ceremonial moment, Trump had spent the weeks since his loss to Biden on November 3 insisting that the election was stolen and persuading his supporters that Republicans could somehow overturn the certified results of the 50 states’ votes.
A group of Trump’s most ardent backers in the Republican Party, led in the Senate by Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, planned to object to some states’ results amid Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. Just before the Capitol came under attack, the two chambers recessed to debate the slate of votes submitted by the first contested state, Arizona.
Trump, who has refused to concede his election loss, spoke to a large rally he had promoted outside the White House shortly before the Capitol was stormed. Many had travelled to Washington at the urging of Trump, who wanted them to put pressure on Congress not to certify Biden’s win.
“I’m genuinely shocked and saddened that our nation, so long a beacon of light and hope for democracy, has come to such a dark moment,” Biden said. “Think what our children watching television is thinking. Think what the rest of the world is looking at.”
Biden added that he was not concerned about his own security or the safety of his inauguration on January 20.
“This God-awful display today is bringing home to every Republican, Democrat and independent in the nation: we must step up,” he said. “Enough is enough is enough.”
Shortly after Biden’s demand that Trump address the country, Trump released a brief video on social media that spoke directly to his rioting supporters in Washington.
While Trump told them to “go home now, we have to have peace,” he did not denounce their actions and still falsely claimed that the election had been “stolen” while adding that he loved them.
Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter all removed the video. A Facebook executive said in a statement that it had contributed to violence.
Facebook removed the video, saying it contributed to violence, while Twitter attached a warning label.
As the day went on, leaders of US allies expressed shock and dismay at what they were watching take place in Washington.
“I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly,” said Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, called the day’s events “shocking”, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called them “disgraceful”.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said the actions taken by Trump supporters would please “the enemies of democracy”.
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