On January 7, both chambers of the U.S. Congress—the equivalent of Australia’s Federal Parliament—in Washington, D.C. were scheduled to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential race. Instead, the proceedings turned in to what was described as “violent” and “chaotic” as pro-Trump rioters took over the building and made their way into the chambers, with local media reporting a woman had been shot and was in critical condition at a nearby hospital.
The entire building was put into lockdown as rioters continued to fill the Capitol statuary hall, which separates the House and the Senate, filling both chambers with U.S. flags and ‘Make America Great Again’ flags, while chanting ‘Stop the steal’.
An hour before the rioters stormed the building, Trump spoke to a crowd at a rally in a nearby park. There, he assured supporters he would “never concede” the election. As the riots became violent, Trump tweeted at his supporters to remain “peaceful”, but did not tell rioters to stop.
New York Magazine described the scene as “a violent crescendo to Trump’s coup attempt and a clean break with a centuries-old tradition of the peaceful transfer of power.”
While the chaotic scene unfolded, many couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the current protest—made up of mostly white, male Trump supporters—and the protests that occurred throughout 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In May 2020, demonstrations broke out across the world in response to the police killings of unarmed people of colour, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These protests were often met with a large response from police, including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and instances of physical violence.
While these protestors knocked over barricades, pushed past officers with ease, broke windows as they carried Confederate battle flags throughout the chambers and even stole furniture and posed for photos in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, Twitter asked: How would this event have unfolded if protesters were Black?
Activist Amanda Gorman wrote: “Unarmed black people have been killed in our own homes, our own cars, our own schools. Meanwhile, white protesters storm the US capitol. Racial equality doesn’t mean the death of these white protesters. Equality means that those black hearts should’ve been beating today.”
In response to the situation, Biden called for Trump to “demand an end to this siege,” and said, “At this hour, our Democracy is under unprecedented assault.
“It must end. Now,” he said. “I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward,” he said. “Today is a reminder, a painful one, that democracy is fragile. To preserve it requires people of goodwill. Leaders who are willing to stand up, that are devoted, not to the pursuit of power … but to the common good.”
As the building was later deemed secure and Washington was placed into a citywide lockdown, police had seized five guns and arrested at least 13 people, Chief Robert J. Contee of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department said on Wednesday, per The New York Times.
By comparison, there were reportedly more than 14,000 arrests at the George Floyd protests.
Dustin Sternbeck, a spokesman for the police department further told the publication that the woman who was shot at the scene was pronounced dead at a local hospital.