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‘Frontal attack on democracy’: Locals respond to attack on Capitol by Trump supporters
Headlines around the world are dominated today by the protest in Washington, DC, which saw Trump supporters storming the capitol building, home to the Senate and House of Representatives that make up Congress.
Protestors were able to break through local police lines and gain access to first the grounds then the building itself. The National Guard eventually arrived to provide back-up and get protestors out of the buildings and off the grounds.
It is the first time that the US capital building has been breached since it was built in the early 1800s. It was set on fire, however, by British troops during the War of 1812, when it was under construction.
“Shock and disbelief at ongoing events at the US Capitol, symbol of American democracy,” tweeted prime minister Alexander De Croo yesterday evening. “We trust the strong institutions of the United States will overcome this challenging moment. Full support to President-elect @joebiden.”
The crowds of several thousand Trump supporters, some of them armed, had gathered outside the capitol building on Wednesday to protest the official confirmation of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. At about 20.00 Belgian time, hundreds of those gathered set about knocking down barriers and breaking into the building, spurred on by president Trump’s speech the same day reasserting that the elections results were fraudulent.
The capitol’s security agents gathered congressional staff and representatives in the senate chamber and can be seen in footage defending the chamber from protestors, who shot out windows in the chamber’s door. Protestors eventually did breach the space, and all staff was evacuated.
Protestors roamed around the capitol for several hours, infiltrating other offices and inflicting damage, before police announced that the building was clear.
The incident “is a frontal attack on democracy,” said federal foreign affairs minister Sophie Wilmès. “They invaded the space in which elections results were being validated.”
The minister says she is “shocked” by the images but that “it does not reflect the soul of the United States. We are faced with something exceptional, in the negative sense of the term.”
Four people, all protestors, died during the conflict. One of them was shot, though it has not been confirmed by whom. More than 50 people were arrested.
“What happened today in Washington, DC, was a coup attempt by armed terrorists,” says Pauline Manos of the Belgian chapter of Democrats Abroad. Protestors were, she says, “incited by Trump and his Republican allies to prevent Congress from finalising his re-election failure. This attempt cannot and must not succeed.”
She joins other commentators in noting the drastic difference with which local police and national military forces have responded to this protest compared to Black Lives Matter marches.
“The racial injustice here is deafening,” says Manos. “Many armed – mostly white – people who illegally trespassed and broke into the Capitol wielding guns were then allowed to walk off the Hill and disperse. The police would never have responded in this way for a Black Lives Matter protest, or any other protest led by people of colour. America must wake up to this outrage. To our Congress and the people of DC – the world is with you. Stay safe.”
Congress has since certified Biden’s win to become the next president of the US. His inaguration is set for 20 January.
Photo ©Lev Radin/Sipa USA/BELGA