Vice President Mike Pence of the United States was whisked to a safe house Wednesday after protesters supporting President Donald Trump descended on the U.S. Capitol and took over the Congress building.
This happened after demonstrators broke through barricades, demanding that the November 3, 2020 election be declared in favour of Mr Trump.
Mr Trump lost the election to former vice president and now President-elect Joe Biden, and lost all lawsuits he filed against the conduct of the poll.
The president has rejected the outcome of the election, alleging widespread fraud and irregularities.
The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives held a joint session Wednesday to ratify the election result, before thousands of protesters forced their way in, overwhelming law enforcement agents and disrupting the largely ceremonial process.
Mr Pence, who was presiding over the joint session, was seen rushing out of the Senate chamber as protesters who surrounded the Capitol pushed forward and broke windows, broadcaster NBC News reported.
An image on CNN showed armed security agents within the Congress chamber pointing their weapons at a window, taking cover behind pillars. One protester took the seat of Mr Pence and screamed “Trump won that election”, some reports said.
CNN called the chaos an “insurrection” and an “attempted coup”, encouraged by Mr Trump.
Earlier in the day, Mr Pence had declared he would not unilaterally upturn the result of the election as President Trump demanded, saying he lacked the powers to do so. Mr Trump promptly derided his deputy as “lacking courage”.
Just before protesters took over the Congress building of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy, Mr Trump addressed a large crowd in front of the White House, angrily vowing that he would never concede to Mr Biden.
“We will never give up, we will never concede. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he said. He later added that Mr Biden would be an “illegitimate” president.
As chaos unfolded and offices in the area were evacuated, President Trump in a Twitter post urged the protesters to be “peaceful”.
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