Despite the unrest that occurred on Wednesday afternoon after right-wing protesters overran the U.S. Capitol Building, congressional lawmakers ultimately certified the results of the 2020 election, setting the stage for President-elect Joe Biden to be sworn in on January 20. But the demonstration that sparked the riot, originally conceived as an opportunity for right-leaning Americans to protest on President Donald Trump’s behalf, came at a political cost to the commander-in-chief, resulting in calls for his removal from office.
Following several rallies designed to protest what Trump supporters believe were fraudulent votes cast during the 2020 election, thousands of demonstrators marched to the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and proceeded to push their way into the building. Throngs of people toppled largely unguarded barricades, clashed with Capitol Police officers, and entered the Capitol building. Once inside, they invaded members’ offices, posing for pictures, rifling through files, even absconding with trophies ranging from the speaker’s podium to stationery with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s seal on it.
Capitol Police attempted to secure the building, and began evacuating high-level members while other lawmakers took refuge inside various offices throughout the Capitol complex. The disruption halted the debate over the certification of the election results in both chambers, delaying what should have been a routine procedural vote.
In the midst of the insurrection, a woman was shot in the throat by a police officer. A spokesperson for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services said there had been “multiple injuries,” with the woman — later identified as Ashli Babbit, an Air Force veteran from San Diego — dying. By the end of the day three others — two men and a woman — had also died after suffering “separate medical emergencies” near the U.S. Capitol grounds. At least 52 people were arrested during the course of securing the building, according to The Hill.
After several prominent Republicans began pleading with President Trump to issue a statement, he tweeted a message to his followers telling them to “stay peaceful.” He later issued a video statement in which he continued to peddle conspiracy theories and personal grievances about the election while mildly urging his supporters to “go home.”
“We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said. “It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace, we have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt.
— Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force
“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home, we love you, you’re very special, you’ve seen what happens, you’ve seen the way others are treated that are so bad, so evil. I know how you feel.”
The House and Senate ultimately resumed debate around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, after safety to the Capitol complex had been restored. Following debate, lawmakers in the House and Senate voted down two resolutions seeking to block certification of presidential election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Eight Senate Republicans and 139 House Republicans voted for one or both objections, paving the way for final certification of Biden’s Electoral College win.
LGBTQ advocates were unsparing in their criticism of the president for egging on his supporters, calling him a threat to the Republic and urging his removal from office, even though he has less than two weeks left in his term.
Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, released a statement calling for the immediate removal of President Trump from office, calling him a “threat to democracy” and accusing him of egging on an “attempted coup.”
“If Donald Trump were to stay in office for a mere 24 hours it would be too long and too risky,” Carey said. “For his entire administration, and especially today, he has rhetorically spat on the right of assembly and free speech by inciting violence as Congress today fulfills its duty to certify the election. The domestic terrorist attack on the Capital today was not merely incited by Trump, but orchestrated and organized by Trump and his enablers using misinformation, lies, and conspiracy theories.
— U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y.
“We condemn the violence in Washington, D.C. and in communities across the country that has been incited by today’s attack on the Capitol building. We are better than this. To move forward we must begin by making the strongest statement possible and remove Trump from office using the power of the 25th Amendment.”
The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of a president if the vice president and Cabinet members believe he is unable to carry out his duties as president or uphold his oath of office.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), a lesbian mom of four, echoed the call for invoking the 25th Amendment, tweeting: “The President should not serve another day in office. I encourage members of his Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him.”
Ritchie Torres, one of the two first gay Black men elected to Congress, lay the blame for the unrest squarely at Donald Trump’s feet:
“President @realDonaldTrump has spent months telling inflammatory lies and instigating a violent mob to storm into the Capitol in an attempt at derailing the peaceful transfer of power,” he tweeted. “Invoke the 25th Amendment. Immediately.”
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), an LGBTQ ally, was the first member of Congress to say she was drawing up new articles of impeachment against Trump in order to force him out of office. Openly gay Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), along with Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) later announced they had drafted and begun circulating their own Articles of Impeachment.
A number of Democratic lawmakers have since expressed support for impeachment, including newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), the other openly gay Black man in Congress.
“I’ll just say it,” Jones tweeted. “If today’s domestic terrorists were Black, they would have never been allowed to storm the Capitol.”
He later issued a statement saying he “could not have imagined a darker day for democracy.”
“Donald Trump has incited violence against the legislative branch of the United States Government, encouraging thousands of his supporters to storm the Capitol, and must be impeached again,” Jones said.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization, announced its support for Trump’s removal from office, whether through the invocation of the 25th Amendment or through impeachment and conviction.
“President Trump bears responsibility for Wednesday’s insurrection at the United States Capitol and the attempted coup of our government in which four people died,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “In the months since the free and fair presidential election, President Trump has advanced knowingly false claims to undermine and overturn the election results, a shameful violation of his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States and an interference with the peaceful transfer of power.
“The United States of America is a nation of laws, built upon the Constitutional promise that no one is beyond accountability — especially those elected to serve the American public,” David continued. “If the Cabinet and Vice President do not immediately invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office, then the U.S. Congress should quickly impeach and convict him to preserve our institutions of government and protect the American people.”
— D.C. Councilmember Christina Henderson, I-At-Large
A coalition of 17 other LGBTQ organizations signed a nearly identical statement calling for Trump’s removal. Signatories include: the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the Equality Federation, GLSEN, Lambda Legal, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“As LGBTQ organizations and movement leaders, we call for the immediate and unequivocal removal of Donald Trump as President of the United States via the invoking of the 25th Amendment or by impeachment if necessary,” the statement reads. “Our nation’s security and the personal security of every American is in grave danger, and we cannot afford to sustain even another day with this destructive and seditious man in the White House.”
Newly-elected D.C. Councilmember Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), a former Council staffer and Hill staffer who most recently worked for soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, called the unrest in D.C. “completely unacceptable” and called on national leaders to “use all available options to ensure we have a peaceful transfer of power” on Inauguration Day.
“This was not a First Amendment demonstration — it was an unlawful riot fueled by the lies and hate of a man unable to accept defeat and willing to shred the very fabric of our democracy in an attempt to hold on to power,” Henderson said. “Not only did today’s act threaten our democracy, but they also put at risk the safety of D.C. residents who work and live in and around the Capitol area, as well as our businesses and sacred institutions.
“I have been a part of and seen my fair share of protests in the District — both on Capitol Hill and on D.C. streets — and honestly watching today I can only imagine how the outcome would have been different if the perpetrators looked like me,” added Henderson, who is Black. “I know many D.C. residents feel the same way.
“I will be following up with the D.C. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that the individuals responsible for the rioting, violence, and destruction of property that took place this week are held accountable for their actions. Anything less would embolden future perpetrators.”
— Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director, Equality California
The Senate GLASS Caucus, the official LGBTQ staff association of the United States Senate, echoed Henderson’s statements, condemning the attack on the Capitol.
“This was far from a constitutionally protected peaceful protest, and we support all efforts to bring the domestic terrorists responsible to justice,” the caucus said in a statement. “GLASS urges the Senate and House to conduct a full investigation into the security shortfalls that allowed a seditious mob to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and threaten the safety of those working throughout the Capitol complex. Such actions must never be allowed to happen again, both for the good of our democracy and for the wellbeing of those employed on Capitol Hill.”
Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, condemned the rioters who mobbed the Capitol.
“This dangerous, seditious siege on the U.S. Capitol, incited by the president and carried out by his supporters, is a test of our democracy that we have never seen before,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur said in a statement. “It has been over a century-and-a-half since our nation witnessed such violent insurrection. And never before has one been incited by the sitting president of the United States and his allies in Congress.
“Our institutions are strong, but democracy is fragile,” he continued. “Each and every one of us is responsible for its protection…. This terrorist attack on the nation’s capital is a serious and solemn moment for our nation and deserves an equally serious and solemn response. The world is watching.”
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