WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Images of angry pro-Trump demonstrators storming the U.S. Capitol Wednesday prompted stunned reactions from leaders around the world, as well as within the United States.
In a raucous, out-of-control scene, protesters fought past police and breached the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they marched through the halls. One person was reported shot at the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the situation. That person’s condition was unknown.
“Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted. “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
Lawmakers had to be rushed from the building, interrupting challenges to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory as trespassers breached building security.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, tweeted that the “scenes from the Capitol are utterly horrifying.”
Micheál Martin, the prime minister of Ireland, tweeted that he was watching the developments in the U.S. “with great concern and dismay.”
Some political leaders within the U.S. recoiled at the events in Washington D.C.
New York Rep. Ritchie Torres called it “the greatest assault on American democracy in the modern history of our country.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called it a “heinous and violent assault on the heart of our democracy.”
South Carolina Senator and Trump ally Lindsey Graham called the siege on the Capitol a “national embarrassment.”
Indiana governor Eric Holcomb issued a statement reading, “It’s both saddening and sickening to watch a mob devolve into thinking their rules would ever replace the rule of law. I unequivocally condemn the violence at the U.S. Capitol that we are now witnessing. Passion, patriotism and love for our nation should always and only be expressed in constructive ways that seek to honor the ideals on which our nation was founded. Any means of violence runs counter to who we are and is never acceptable.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker released the following statement calling on Congress to impeach and remove President Trump:
“I don’t make a statement like this lightly: Two weeks is too long for Donald Trump to remain in office, where he can continue to incite more untold violence.
“I say this after careful thought and reflection on my responsibilities as an American and as Governor of Illinois. We are in the middle of a deadly pandemic that continues to need the full time and attention of our state resources. We are working to oversee a massive vaccination effort that will require the full focus of our state agencies and first responders.
“Because of today’s events incited by the President, I had to ask the Illinois State Police and other law enforcement resources, engaged in important life-saving missions, to redeploy to heighten their presence at government buildings and the Capitol in Springfield.
“As the heart of our democracy was under siege and blood was literally being spilled in our most sacred halls, Donald Trump was praising the attackers. There are real questions about what efforts the President made to protect our Congress or what obstructions he committed that has prevented the ending of the siege.
“There is no doubt in my mind that his efforts to encourage a coup represent high treason to this democracy, our Constitution and all Americans. He poses a danger to our nation. He must be impeached and removed from office immediately. And every person in a position of public trust, elected or otherwise, who enabled the systematic dismantling of our democratic norms and failed to speak up or take action bears some responsibility for the culmination of four years of spreading bile.
“This violence is the natural conclusion of Donald Trump’s efforts to unleash the forces of hate and divide our nation. It must end.”
Trump issued a restrained call for peace well after the melee was underway but did not urge supporters to disperse. Earlier he had egged them on to march to Capitol Hill. He later issued a video statement purportedly to urge his supporters to stand down, during which he also repeated unfounded claims of a stolen election.
Wednesday’s ordinarily mundane procedure of Congress certifying a new president was always going to be extraordinary, with Republican supporters of Trump vowing to protest results of an election that they have baselessly insisted was reversed by fraud. But even the unusual deliberations, which included the Republican vice president and Senate majority leader defying Trump’s demands, were quickly overtaken.
The protesters abruptly interrupted the congressional proceedings in an eerie scene that featured official warnings directing people to duck under their seats for cover and put on gas masks after tear gas was used in the Capitol Rotunda.
Reporters and anchors described scenes of bedlam and fear, questioning how security and the nation’s leaders did not anticipate it.
“This is so, so embarrassing for the United States of America,” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said.
Television networks had gathered to watch the congressional debate over the election but their cameras quickly turned to ominous scenes outside the building as a crowd that had listened to an angry speech by Trump marched to the building.
As demonstrators climbed steps and penetrated the Capitol, it quickly flew out of control.
“The mob has overtaken the process of trying to certify the electoral college,” said Fox News Channel reporter Chad Pergram. “Security here at the U.S. Capitol has failed.”
“How were you not prepared for this?” NBC News’ Katy Tur said.
“That is not Ukraine, that is not Belarus,” ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos said as images of people banging on the U.S. Capitol door played.
Some anchors were quick to assign blame: CNN’s Jake Tapper said it was violence incited by Trump, his supporters and leaders of the congressional effort to challenge the electoral college vote, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
“It’s an absolutely disgraceful moment in United States history and there are specific villains,” Tapper said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.