Pro-Trump rioters stormed Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, over claims of a rigged election Wednesday afternoon. What started as a rally escalated into chaos and violence, with some protestors fleeing the scene.
By 3 p.m. the rioters entered the Capitol by banging on doors, breaking windows and finally entering the Senate Chamber.
According to The Washington Post, seven people were sent to the hospital. A woman who had been shot was pronounced dead in a local hospital. Congress members were escorted to the House Chamber for safety and were given gas masks.
A series of tweets from President Donald Trump shows his call of action to his supporters. In one tweet posted Dec. 30, he said he will see them in D.C. on Jan. 6, sharing the link to a website that included details about the “March for Trump” rally.
The website’s description said: “Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes. It’s up to the American people to stop it.”
Randall Smith, chair of the political science department at Franklin College, said what prompted the events of today could be this ability to connect with supporters in the modern era: The ability to tweet and get people to show up.
“The fear within the Republican Party of standing up to the president has allowed him to become, I would say, increasingly bold in his statements, in his non-factual statements,” Smith said.
Smith reiterated the group that rioted Wednesday does not represent the Republican party or Trump supporters overall.
Many Indiana senators and representatives, a majority of them Republicans, posted statements asking the protesters to calm down and remain peaceful as the situation intensified.
Rioters broke into the offices, including that of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, where they broke and stole a sign.
“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,” Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb tweeted.
Leaders across the country asked President Trump to supply a response to what was happening, pleading with him to tell his supporters to leave the Capitol grounds. Trump eventually posted a pre-recorded video message on Twitter asking demonstrators to go home, but still claimed in his remarks the election results to be fraudulent.
After 5 p.m. all rioters had evacuated Capitol Hill. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser set a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. city-wide curfew, while citizens were still seen gathering outside Capitol Hill. Demonstrators screamed at and chased reporters, damaging some of their equipment.
By the late evening, Congress had reconvened to certify the electoral college votes.
On campus, Franklin College President Kerry Prather sent out a statement to all students and staff about the unrest.
“I encourage everyone to say a prayer for our country given the events of today at the Capitol,” Prather said. “The peaceful transfer of government power has been a hallmark of our democracy since [Benjamin] Franklin’s time, and it has remained an inspiring example for evolving democracies all over the world.”
The bipartisan and student-led club Franklin College Across the Aisle, or FCAA, also issued a statement condemning the riot and urging Americans to remember what unites them.
"The events that took place in Washington, D.C., today were horrific, and they were un-American. FCAA was founded on the ideals of bipartisanship and cooperation. These are American values, and it is these same values that make America strong," the group said. "FCAA remains committed to upholding these values. Let us never forget that although we may have different political beliefs, and we may disagree, we are all Americans."
The Franklin reached out to several Franklin College alumni who currently reside in the Washington, D.C, area for comment on the events developing near their homes.
Franklin College alumnus Joey Sample, 42, class of 2000, said he feared what would happen after the group was dispersed from the Capitol.
“I live a mile and a half from what’s happening here, and I’m actually right off Pennsylvania,” Sample said. “I am terrified.”
Sample works as the director of prospect management at the Smithsonian Institution, so he wouldn’t have seen the siege unfold had he not been working from home.
Alumna Joan Wills, 80, from the class of 1962, said she’s used to the noise from Capitol Hill but that this event is a tragedy.
“I’m one block off of Pennsylvania Avenue, I walk up there. The Capitol is right there, in all of its glory,” Wills said. “I am more than a little upset, the gentleman who is currently still our president is, I believe, mentally ill and it’s tragic what’s happening in this nation.”
Continuing, alumna Susan Canady, 52, of the 1990 class, lives in Rockville, Maryland, only 17 miles from Washington, D.C. She said this sort of situation is something people might see from a far-away country that is new to American democracy.
“It’s just sad that something of this nature is going on in the United States of America,” Canady said. “That this is happening here is just a sad statement on where we are.”
Smith said Franklin College students trying to understand the unrest can use the events to see the value of going to a liberal arts school. The education a student gets through a liberal arts program helps them learn the importance of understanding what it means to be a citizen of the U.S. It’s about learning history, civic duty and critical thinking.
“Instead of focusing on the things that divide us, focus on our similarities as opposed to our differences,” Smith said. “Focus on the things that we have in common, and focus much less on the very few things that we have that are dissimilar.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.