Thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to protest the president's loss in the 2020 election

By Morgan Smith and Virginia Chamlee
January 06, 2021 05:35 PM
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Rioters have ripped an American flag off of a flagpole outside the United States Capitol building and replaced it with a Trump flag as thousands of pro-Trump agitators descended on the Capitol Wednesday protesting his loss in the 2020 election.

Huffington Post reporter Igor Bobic captured the moment a group of people climbed scaffolding to the second floor of the building where an American flag was hung. One of the men tore down the flag and threw it to to the ground, inciting cheers and applause from some watching. He then attempted to replace it with a Trump flag.

Thousands of Trump supporters had gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump amid his unfounded claims of election fraud following his November loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

Video footage taken at the scene showed people carrying Confederate, "Trump 2020" and "Don't Tread on Me" flags clashing with police, many in full riot gear, near the Capitol building.

Rioters breached the building, breaking windows, storming the Senate chamber and vandalizing offices inside, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers who were gathered inside the Capitol to count the Electoral College votes certifying President-elect Joe Biden's win.

Credit: Samuel Corum/Getty

One woman was shot in the chest inside the Capitol building and is now in critical condition, according to CNN.

Amid the chaos, President-elect Joe Biden called on the president to "step up" during a several-minute televised address from Wilmington, Delaware.

"Let me be very clear, the scenes at the Capitol do not reflect the true America," the president-elect asserted. "What we’re seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s chaos.”

He directly called on the president to "go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege," saying, "it must end now."

Shortly after Biden's speech, Trump responded to the situation, tweeting out a video speaking directly to the mob of his supporters. In the video, Trump told rioters "we love you, you're very special," but added, "You have to go home now, we have to have peace." He then doubled down on the baseless claims that the election was "stolen from us" in the clip. (The video has been removed or restricted from social channels including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, due to "risk of violence.")

Trump has cast himself as something of a protector of the stars and stripes — often theatrically embracing and kissing American flags at events — and previously tweeted that those who burn the flag should have their citizenship revoked or spend time in jail.

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Yet he and his supporters have shown their reverence for the flag in seemingly hypocritical ways, often hanging it alongside flags with Trump's own name on it — like the one used Wednesday — or manipulating it into a pro-law enforcement version, as a means of defying the Black Lives Matter movement.

Within the Capitol, rioters could also be seen holding a large Confederate flag, a symbol often associated with the white supremacist movement and originally created when 11 states seceded from the union following the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Trump and his supporters have also been extremely critical of those who peacefully kneel during the national anthem, claiming it is disrespectful of the flag.

Speaking to Alabama supporters during a 2017 rally, Trump said: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say, 'get that son of a b--- off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired."

Today's events mark the first time the U.S. Capitol has been breached since the British attacked the building during the War of 1812, CNN reports.

Similar riots have cropped up throughout the country including in Kansas, where a group breached the state house and in Georgia, where a group gathered outside the Georgia Capitol, leading to an evacuation of lawmakers and staffers in the building.