Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump addressed thousands of supporters, including members of far-right groups, at a rally in Washington protesting Wednesday’s meeting of Congress to confirm his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden in November.
A short walk from the rally, hundreds of Trump supporters overturned barricades and clashed with police on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol where Congress was meeting, clambering onto the structures erected for Biden’s inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20 to unfurl Trump flags and gathering on the Capitol steps. Police used teargas and pepper spray on some of the protesters.
Trump, who has spent much of his time since the Nov. 3 election trying to overturn the results, falsely said he won as he spoke on an outdoor stage framing the White House, which Biden is due to move into in two weeks.
Crowds gathered at the “Save America March” wore Trump-approved red baseball caps and cheered as Trump repeated the groundless conspiracy theories that have consumed his final days in office — a period in which coronavirus infections have surged throughout the United States as the pandemic worsens
“You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” Trump, a Republican, said after taking the stage following a playlist blasted over loudspeakers of power ballads by Elton John and Phil Collins. “Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more.”
For more than an hour, he aired familiar grievances with the news media and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival from the 2016 election, and delighted the crowd by calling Democratic victories the product of what he called “explosions of bullshit.”
“Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!” the crowd chanted in reply. Most were not wearing the face masks urged by health experts to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 350,000 Americans.
U.S. Capitol put on lockdown as pro-Trump demonstrators storm the Capitol
Weeks have passed since the states completed certifying that Biden, a Democrat, won the election by 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232, and Trump’s extraordinary challenges to Biden’s victory have floundered in courts across the country.
Congress was due to confirm Biden’s victory on Wednesday. Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans have promised a stonewalling effort that could stretch proceedings past midnight but was almost certain to fail.
Vice President Mike Pence opened the proceedings in his constitutional role as president of the Senate. He said in a statement that while he shared the concerns about the “integrity” of the election, it was not correct that he should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally.
In his remarks at the rally, Trump repeatedly made clear his frustration with Pence if he didn’t stop Congress from certifying the result.
“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and the good of our country,” Trump said. “And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you, I will tell you right now.”