Trump supporters breach U.S. Capitol, overwhelm police with force, ‘chemical irritants’

Supporters of President Donald Trump pushed past barricades and forced themselves inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in violent clashes with police. 

D.C. police said at least one civilian was shot and that protesters deployed “chemical irritants on police” to gain access. Police Chief Robert Contee said several police officers were injured.

At least one explosive device was found nearby, but law enforcement officials said the device was no longer a threat Wednesday afternoon.

Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington to protest Congress’s formal approval of president-elect Joe Biden’s win in the general election. Several Republican lawmakers have backed his calls, despite there being no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing in the election.

WATCH | Pro-Trump protesters storm barricades at U.S. Capitol:

Thousands of people protested at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., crashing through barricades and climbing the steps as Congress voted to certify Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. 2:05

The chief said at least five weapons have been recovered and at least 13 people have been arrested so far.

As darkness began to set in, law enforcement officials were working their way toward the protesters, using percussion grenades to try to clear the area around the Capitol. Big clouds of tear gas were visible.

Police were in full riot gear. They moved down the west steps, clashing with demonstrators.

The Pentagon said about 1,100 D.C. National Guard members were being mobilized to help support law enforcement. A spokesperson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that officers from the Federal Protective Service and U.S. Secret Service agents were being sent to the scene. He says they were requested to assist by U.S. Capitol Police.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier declared a 6 p.m. curfew.

Lawmakers told to don gas masks

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, chambers abruptly recessed as dozens of people breached security perimeters at the Capitol and lawmakers inside the House chamber were told to put on gas masks as tear gas was fired in the rotunda.

A chaplain prayed as police guarded the doors to the chamber and lawmakers tried to gather information about what was happening.

Protesters were inside the Senate chamber. One got up on the dais and yelled “Trump won that election.” Several dozen were roaming through the halls, yelling, “Where are they?” Some were also in the visitors’ galleries.

An announcement was played inside the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting and expected to vote to affirm Biden’s victory. Due to an “external security threat,” no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex, the recording said.

WATCH | CBC reporter mobbed by angry Trump supporters in Washington:

Senior correspondent Katie Nicholson and her videographer were verbally accosted and jostled as the team reported from the streets of Washington. 0:45

The skirmishes outside occurred in the very spot where Biden will be inaugurated in just two weeks.

Protesters tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and were met by officers in riot gear. Some tried to push past the officers who held shields and officers could be seen firing pepper spray into the crowd to keep them back. Some in the crowd were shouting “traitors” as officers tried to keep them back.

A suspicious package was also reported in the area, Capitol Police said.

The skirmishes came just shortly after Trump addressed thousands of his supporters, riling up the crowd with his baseless claims of election fraud at a rally near the White House on Wednesday ahead of Congress’s vote.

“We will not let them silence your voices,” Trump told the protesters, who had lined up before sunrise to get a prime position to hear the president.

After the Capitol was first breached, Trump encouraged supporters in a tweet to “remain peaceful,” but didn’t call for them to disperse.

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol amid violent protests in Washington on Wednesday. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)

Biden, who said U.S. democracy was under “unprecedented assault,” called on Trump to go on national television and demand an end to “this siege.”

Shortly afterward, Trump released a video on Twitter that repeated false statements about the election being stolen, but also told protesters to “go home now.”

Vice-President Mike Pence had earlier called on protesters to leave immediately.

In a tweet Pence said, “This attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern about the violent scenes.

“Obviously we’re concerned and we’re following the situation minute by minute,” Trudeau told the Vancouver radio station News 1130. “I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly.”

Trump supporters enter the Capitol’s rotunda. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election certification. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

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