By Julia Guerrein, Editor-in-Chief
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, a pro-President Donald Trump mob surrounded and stormed the U.S. Capitol building. At his rally earlier that morning, Trump directed his followers to disrupt the certification of the electoral college votes. The U.S. Senate had begun certifying the electoral college votes that morning and finished late that night after the insurrection.
Much of Trump’s morning rally near the White House focused on his unsubstantiated claim that the election was stolen from him due to widespread voter fraud.
“They say we lost,” Trump said. “We didn’t lose.”
During his speech, Trump repeatedly stated that Vice President Mike Pence had the power to overturn the Electoral College vote. Overturning the electoral college vote, Trump said, was constitutional.
“After this we are going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you…” Trump said, “to the Capitol, and we are going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you will never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
After Trump’s speech, the mob made its way to the Capitol Building, where rioters scaled walls, breached police gates, smashed windows, forced their way inside, climbed the marble staircase, broke through doorways, and proceeded to deface the Capitol building as well as take Capitol property. Once in the building, the rioters went into offices and the chambers. Some rioters specifically targeted House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, with one man photographed propping his feet up on her desk. The man also took some of Pelosi’s mail and left her a note. Another woman stole a laptop from one of Pelosi’s aides and intended to sell it to Russia’s intelligence service.
Capitol Police killed one rioter during the insurrection, and three others died from medical incidents. Rioters were responsible one death—beating Capitol police officer Brian D. Sicknick and hitting him in the head with a fire extinguisher. Sicknick died the next day from his injuries.
While rioters were running wild throughout the Capitol Building, members of Congress moved to secure locations. Vice President Mike Pence was present on Capitol Hill and was quickly taken to a secure location.
“Immediately seek shelter in the closest office,” instructed an announcement over a loudspeaker. Staff and representatives inside were told to lock the doors, “remain quiet and await further directions.”
Once the scale and seriousness of the insurrection became clear, President-elect Joe Biden gave a live address to the nation. Biden condemned the attack on the Capitol and called on Trump to go on national television “to demand an end to this siege.” Shortly thereafter, Trump released a pre-recorded video addressing the mob in which he repeated his claims of a “fraudulent” and “stolen” election before asking the rioters to “go home in peace.” Trump concluded his video by telling the mob: “We love you. You’re very special…I know how you feel.”
Later that day, Facebook and Twitter announced they were suspending Trump’s accounts. “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter stated.
After it took security several hours to secure the Capitol Building, lawmakers returned to certify Biden’s electoral college victory. Despite the violence of the day and attempts to void Arizona’s election results, Congress certified the election around 3:32 a.m. Thursday morning.
That night, Vermont Law School’s President and Dean, Thomas McHenry, emailed the VLS community about the events.
“Peaceful protests are an essential element of our democracy, but violence against our lawmakers and the buildings in which they conduct the crucial task of government is not,” McHenry’s email read. “Regardless of our political views, we need to condemn this behavior. As current and future lawyers and public policy makers, these events underline our obligation to protect and rebuild the rule of law and our democratic institutions.”
On Jan. 12, McHenry emailed the VLS community with a statement written in response to the insurrection, which was signed by McHenry and 157 other law school deans around the country. The statement can be found here.