Capitol under siege: the images that will haunt the United States

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Hopeful police officers point their pistols through broken glass and push their weight against a dilapidated sofa barricade in a final attempt to stop a pro-Trump mob from storming the US Senate chamber.

Three more died in what police described as “medical emergencies” during the violent insurgency at the heart of American democracy that was broadcast live around the world.

Clouds of tear gas swirled in the air above the steps of the Capitol, refracting lightning from police stun grenades and making the building itself appear to be in flames.

In a loud and uncontrollable scene, the crowd fought outside the police and entered the building, shouting and waving Trump and American flags as they walked through the hallways demanding that this was “their home.”

The looters ripped Nancy Pelosi’s name from the wall and stole the speaker’s podium in the bedroom. The attack forced politicians to flee the chamber, where they had gathered to certify Mr. Biden’s victory in the electoral college.

The session was abandoned as a number of Republican senators opposed Arizona’s electoral vote count, spurred by Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud.

It took lawmakers six hours to return to the chamber after Wednesday’s siege. By this time, some Republicans had lost the appetite to deny the election result, although objections were still filed against Arizona and Pennsylvania.

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Jamie Stiehm, a political reporter who was inside the Capitol building, told the BBC: “A lot of us are hardened journalists – I’ve seen my share of violence covering the homicides in Baltimore – but it was very unpredictable.

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“The police didn’t seem to know what was going on. They were not coordinated. They locked the doors to the room but at the same time they told us that we had to evacuate. So there was a feeling of panic.

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“There was a feeling of ‘no one is in charge here, the Capitol police have lost control of the building, anything can happen.’

President Trump had issued a narrow call for peace long after the violence broke out, but he did not urge supporters to disperse. Previously, he encouraged them to walk to Capitol Hill.

Wednesday’s ordinarily banal Congressional procedure to certify a new president was always going to be extraordinary, with Republican supporters of Mr. Trump vowing to protest the results of an election they insisted on baseless fraud.

As darkness began to set in, law enforcement moved towards protesters, using percussion grenades to try and clear the area around the Capitol.

The Pentagon said about 1,100 members of the District of Columbia National Guard were mobilized to help support law enforcement on Capitol Hill.

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