UPDATED JANUARY 6, 6:20 PM EST: This story has been updated to reflect Jon Ossoff’s Senate win and unfolding events in Washington, D.C.
Armed supporters of President Donald Trump occupied the Capitol building and successfully halted the counting of Electoral College votes to affirm Joe Biden’s victory, even as the Democrats won control of the Senate.
On Wednesday afternoon, after Trump told supporters gathered near the White House he “will never concede,” hundreds of people from the crowd breached barricades outside the Capitol, forcing the House and Senate into recess as the insurrectionists gathered outside the chambers and even battled with police.
At least one person was reportedly shot, and an improvised explosive device was reportedly found inside the Capitol.
Biden, who defeated the Republican president in the Nov. 3 general election and is due to take office on Jan. 20, said the activity of the protesters “borders on sedition.”
The President-elect further said that for demonstrators to storm the Capitol, smash windows, occupy offices, invade the halls of Congress, and threaten the safety of duly elected officials: “It’s not a protest, it’s insurrection.”
Others called for Trump to be swiftly held accountable for his actions.
“Donald J. Trump should immediately be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate as soon as Congress reconvenes,” tweeted Rep. Ayana Pressly. “This is dangerous & unacceptable,” she said.
Violent far-right groups like the Proud Boys began two days of protests in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday in what they are calling the “Stop the Steal” rally, and police made at least a dozen arrests.
Experts have long warned of the growing threat of far-right domestic terrorists. In October, the FBI arrested 13 heavily armed militia members who were plotting to kidnap Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and violently overthrow several state governments for instituting measures to contain the coronavirus. According to the criminal complaint, “Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor.”
The events on the Capitol threaten to overshadow Democrats winning control of the Senate after Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were declared winners of their respective runoff races in Georgia. Empowered by these electoral victories, progressives say President-elect Biden must adopt bold progressive policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and the growing threat of climate change.
Warnock beat Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler to become the first Black senator in Georgia’s history and the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South.
“We were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work, and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock told supporters in a livestream.
Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old documentary filmmaker who will become the Senate’s youngest member, also declared victory Wednesday morning with a narrow lead over incumbent David Perdue. Although the race remained too close to call at the time of Ossoff’s declaration, his victory was confirmed by AP News late Wednesday afternoon.
If upheld, the results would be a final defeat for outgoing President Donald Trump, who stands to be the first U.S. president since 1932 to lose the White House and both chambers of Congress in a single term.
Over four million votes were cast in the Georgia runoffs, fueled in part by Black and Latino communities voting in record numbers despite rampant voter suppression by state officials, including the alleged purging of nearly 200,000 eligible voters. Voting rights groups, unions, and grassroots organizers reached hundreds of thousands of potential voters through in-person and virtual canvassing.
“We helped save the country from four more years of Donald Trump, and now we’re within striking distance of ending Mitch McConnell’s rule in the Senate,” said Working Families Party Senior Political Strategist Britney Whaley. “The last straw for many voters was McConnell’s outrageous obstruction of $2,000 in COVID-19 relief that working families desperately need. Wealthy Republican senators put their own interests ahead of people facing poverty, joblessness, and homelessness, and they have received a powerful rebuke.”
The Democratic wins will create a 50-50 split in the Senate and give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote once she and Joe Biden take office on Jan. 20. The party already has a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Senate can prevent the GOP from blocking Biden appointees, and from blocking Democratic legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 400,000 in the U.S. and left tens of millions unemployed.
In May, Harris joined Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey to introduce a bill that would provide $2,000 monthly stimulus checks during the pandemic, which is supported by 65% of voters, according to a Jan. 4 national poll by Data for Progress. In December, Harris voted to end Sanders’ effort to block the $740 billion defense spending bill unless there was a decision on $2,000 checks. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included a $600 stimulus, was passed instead, and signed by Trump on Dec. 27.
On Monday, 50 activists rallied at Biden’s Philadelphia headquarters, demanding he follow through on a campaign promise to cancel up to $50,000 of student debt. In December, Biden signaled he would not use executive action to abolish student debt, saying he wanted Congress to act.
The Georgia losses “fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since Nov. 3,” Georgia Republican election official Gabriel Sterling told CNN.
The campaign’s final days were overshadowed by Trump’s attacks on Georgia’s election results, including a recording of a phone call published this week by the Washington Post in which he demanded Georgia Republican officials “find” enough votes to make him the winner, likely violating the law.
Trump held rallies for both Republican candidates in the lead-up to Tuesday’s election, but maintained false accusations that his own loss in Georgia in the November presidential election was the result of fraud.
Those accusations were debunked point by point by Sterling in a Monday press conference.
“This is all easily, provably false,” Sterling said.
Both Republican senators—following the lead of Trump, who has never conceded his own electoral loss—predicted they would ultimately win, and insisted they would fight on: “We have a path to victory and we’re staying on it,” Loeffler told supporters in Atlanta.
Earlier in the week, police arrested the leader of the Proud Boys after he admitted to burning a Black Lives Matter flag removed from the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church during a pro-Trump rally in December where four people were stabbed and 33 were arrested.