image Photo: Reuters

World reacts to US Capitol riots

World leaders are expressing shock as the United States Capitol was stormed by supporters of President Donald Trump as a joint-session of Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.

Hundreds of rioters forced their way past metal security barricades, smashed glass doors, broke windows and scaled walls to fight their way into the building, where they battled police in the hallways and delayed certification of Biden’s victory for hours. Security officers piled furniture against the chamber’s door and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers and others escape. They were told to put on gas masks and barricade inside as law enforcement officers struggled for more than three hours after the invasion to restore order.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Republican, California) said he heard from police that shots were fired in the building.

“This is not the direction we should go,” McCarthy said, while urging Trump to make a statement.

The Cannon House Office Building and Madison Library of Congress Building were briefly evacuated after two pipe bombs and another explosive devices were found on Capitol Hill. Police also confirmed the seizure of several weapons and firebombs.

“Just had to evacuate my office because of a bomb reported outside, while the President’s anarchists are trying to force their way into the Capitol,” tweeted Rep. Elaine Luria (Democrat, Virginia). “I heard what sounds like multiple gunshots,” reported the Jewish Congresswoman, who is also a retired Navy commander, adding, “I don’t recognize our country today and the members of Congress who have supported this anarchy do not deserve to represent their fellow Americans.”

Police said four people died during the chaos – one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies – and 52 people were arrested. The woman who was fatally shot has been identified as Ashli Babbitt, a 14-year Air Force veteran from San Diego who was a strong supporter of President Trump.

Biden issued a statement deeming the incident as “an assault on our Republic, an assault on the rule of the law…of the most sacred of American undertakings — the doing of the people’s business.”

“This is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos, it borders on sedition and it must end now,” said the President-elect.

A short time later, President Trump posted a video on Twitter, in which he doubled down on his insistence that the 2020 election had been “stolen.” He expressed love for his supporters, whom he called “special,” but told them to “go home.”

After deeming the message to be in breach of their standards, both Twitter and Facebook for the first time locked the Republican leader out of their platforms. Twitter said President Trump violated its “Civic Integrity” and “Violent Threats” policies. “This means that the account of @RealDonaldTrump will be locked for 12 hours following the removal of these tweets,” Twitter posted. “If the Tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked.” Instagram also blocked the president for 24 hours.

The Capitol was declared secure shortly after 5:30 p.m. local time. Agents with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service and the Capitol Police were stationed throughout the city to prevent any more disruptions that marred Wednesday’s planned review of electoral votes.

Hours later, both houses of Congress resumed debate that ultimately certified Biden’s Electoral College win. As debate stretched into the early hours of Thursday, it quickly became clear that objections from pro-Trump Republican lawmakers to Biden’s victory in battleground states would be rejected overwhelmingly – including by most Republicans.

“To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today – you did not win,” Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the session, said as it resumed. “Let’s get back to work,” he said, drawing applause. Pence had earlier broken with Trump when he refused to reject the electoral votes and send them back to the states.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “For generations American democracy has inspired millions around the world and in Israel. American democracy has always inspired me. Lawlessness and violence are the opposite of the values we know Americans and Israelis cherish.
The rampage at the Capitol yesterday was a disgraceful act that must be vigorously condemned.
I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail – it always has.”

Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to the gravest assault on the symbol of American democracy in more than 200 years, stating that images of the chaos “hurt the hearts of everyone who believes in democracy.”

“I did not believe I would see such pictures in the most powerful democracy in the world,” he continued. “This is proof that before political rivalry, we must agree on the rules of the game: Maintaining the rule of law, respecting democratic procedures and respectful discourse. I hope the horrific event comes to an end soon, and without any casualties.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said that “Since its independence, America, our great and true friend, has been a beacon of democracy, and stood for the values of freedom, justice and independence,” adding, “I am sure that the American people and their elected representatives will know how to fend off this attack and will continue to defend the values on which the United States was founded.”

New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar commented, “I was sad to see the pictures from Washington DC last night. Order has been restored and I am sure there will be an orderly transition of power in the United States, our greatest friend in the world.” The former Israeli Cabinet Member then underscored that “The events serve as an important reminder of the dangers of polarization and extremism in society. We must never take democracy and its institutions for granted.”

Former Knesset Member and IDF Spokesman Dr. Nachman Shai responded to the suspension of Trump’s accounts, saying, “Now Twitter is waking up? Too late, too little, but this will help for the future, Twitter, Facebook and all the other networks, the responsibility is on you and do not pretend to be innocent. You’re not.”

“I’m deeply saddened and shocked by the images from the United States. My thoughts are with all my friends in Washington tonight,” said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, ading, “We hope to see order restored and the transition of power completed. American needs to go back to being a role model for democracies across the world.”

Other world reactions came from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was “saddened” by the events at the U.S. Capitol according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric. “In such circumstances, it is important that political leaders impress on their followers the need to refrain from violence, as well as to respect democratic processes and the rule of law,” read the statement.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed shock at the scenes in Washington, stating, “The US Congress is a temple of democracy…We trust the US to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to @JoeBiden.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her belief “in the strength of US institutions and democracy. Peaceful transition of power is at the core. @JoeBiden won the election. I look forward to working with him as the next President of the USA.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the violent protests in Washington “shocking scenes,” and said the outcome of the democratic 3 November 2020 U.S. election must be respected.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the events in the U.S. Congress a “disgrace,” saying the U.S. stood for democracy around the world and that was it is “vital” now that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.

“What happened today in Washington, D.C. is not American, definitely,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video message on Twitter. “We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy,” he said, speaking in English.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated that democracy’s enemies would be cheered by scenes of violence at the United States Capitol which had resulted from inflammatory rhetoric, saying “Trump and his supporters must accept the decision of American voters at last and stop trampling on democracy.”

“What happened in USA is unacceptable and unprecedented attack on democracy,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said, adding that, “Transition of power needs to be smooth and peaceful. I firmly believe that these incidents should cease.”

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the events in Washington “an attack on democracy.” He went on to say, “President Trump and many members of Congress bear significant responsibility for what’s now taking place. The democratic process of electing a president must be respected.”

“This is an unacceptable attack on the U.S. democracy,” said Norwegian Prime Minster Erna Solberg, adding, “President Trump is responsible for stopping this. Scary images, and unbelievable that this is happening in the United States.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a statement: “The attack on Capitol Hill in Washington DC is a very serious and worrying matter. It shows how important it is to firmly and strongly defend democracy at all times.”

After saying he had been “following the situation minute by minute,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remarked, “Obviously we’re concerned” and “I think the American democratic institutions are strong, and hopefully everything will return to normal shortly.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “We condemn these acts of violence and look forward to a peaceful transfer of Government to the newly elected administration in the great American democratic tradition.”

“Democracy – the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, going on to say, “Our thoughts are with everyone who is as devastated as we are by the events of today. I have no doubt democracy will prevail.”

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney strongly condemned the incident as “a deliberate assault on Democracy by a sitting President & his supporters, attempting to overturn a free & fair election! The world is watching! We hope for restoration of calm.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez voiced “concern,” but that“I trust in the strength of America’s democracy. “The new Presidency of @JoeBiden will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people.”

“Distressed to see news about rioting and violence in Washington DC,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet. “Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”

“We decline to comment on President Trump’s political style as this is about U.S. domestic affairs,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters, “But we hope to see democracy in the United States overcome this difficult situation, calmness and harmony regained, and a peaceful and democratic transfer of power.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said his nation “expresses its concern for the violent events that are taking place in the city of Washington, USA; condemns the political polarization and hopes that the American people will open a new path toward stability and social justice.”

“We express our condemnation of the serious acts of violence and the affront to Congress that occurred today in Washington, D.C.,” said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, adding, “We trust that there will be a peaceful transition that respects the popular will and we express our strongest support for President-elect Joe Biden.”

The Chinese embassy issued an advisory on its website on Wednesday warning Chinese citizens to strengthen safety precautions in light of a “large-scale demonstration” in Washington D.C. and a curfew announced by the local government.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement expressing concern about the violence, calling for calm and common sense while urging its citizens to avoid crowds and the protest area.

“Quite Maidan-style pictures are coming from DC,” Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy posted on Twitter, referring to protests in Ukraine that toppled Russian-backed President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. “Some of my friends ask whether someone will distribute crackers to the protesters to echo Victoria Nuland stunt,” he said, referring to a 2013 visit to Ukraine when then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland offered food to protesters.

Meanwhile, many Jewish organizations in the United States from across the religious and political spectrums also issued statements.

After noting that “The right to protest is sacrosanct in American life,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Rabbi Abraham Cooper said, “Nothing, not even the emotional charges of voter fraud in a presidential election, can ever legitimize or excuse such behavior,”… “For as the Talmud warns, ‘Pray for the welfare of the government, for without it… man would swallow his fellow man.’ Today is a dark day for all Americans.”

“The insurrection we saw today was despicable. The mob can never be allowed to rule-and sadly, the President whipped up the mob,” said Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said in a statement, “We share the anger of our fellow Americans over the attack at the Capitol and condemn the assault on our democratic values and process,” adding “This violence, and President Trump’s incitement of it, is outrageous and must end,”

“We watched as a symbol of our nation’s democracy was attacked, with violent anarchists threatening the peaceful transfer of power, and we know this was not a spontaneous event. President Trump incited this insurrection, and he should be immediately removed from office for abuse of power,” said the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA).

“The orderly transfer of power is a hallmark of and essential to American democracy. We are disgusted by the violence at the US Capitol and urge the rioters to disperse immediately,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, while calling for the restoration of law and order, and continuation of “the peaceful transition of administrations.”

“We are shocked and horrified by the violent riots taking place on Capitol Hill at this time,” said the American Jewish Committee (AJC), stating, “The peaceful transition of power is the bedrock of our democracy.”

“Today’s attack on the most precious of American democratic traditions, the peaceful transfer of power, is reprehensible,” stated Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington. “The riots and loss of life are the inevitable result of President Trump’s and others’ incitement and the spreading of misinformation and conspiracy theories about theft and fraudulence in our presidential election, the fairness and authenticity of which have been confirmed by Republican and Democratic state and national elected officials and by multiple federal and state courts,” it added.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented assault not just on the US Capitol building and members of Congress, but on American democracy itself. The scenes of insurrectionists breaching Capitol security, of Senators and Representatives hiding under chairs on the chamber floor praying with the chaplain while Capitol police stand at the ready, are terrifying and heartbreaking,” said the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner.

“The criminal behavior and events of this afternoon are abhorrent, as are attempts to disrupt democracy with incitement to violence. As Jews, we know the power of words and demand our elected leaders raise the level of discourse and lead with civility,” read a joint statement issued by Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA) National President Rhoda Smolow and CEO Janice Weinman.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “The President has promoted sedition and incited violence. People assaulting law enforcement officers or breaching government buildings must be arrested and held accountable.” Greenblatt said that the violence was “a direct result of the fear and disinformation that has been spewed consistently from the Oval Office. President Trump has a responsibility to call for an end to this violence and unrest that he has sowed. His campaign of disinformation is a clear and present danger to our democracy.” Underscoring, “again and again, extremists must be taken at their word,” the ADL head also called for the continued suspension of Trump’s social media accounts.

The National Council of Young Israel called the scenes from Washington a “deplorable and a dangerous assault on the very foundation upon which this nation is built,” and denounced “those individuals who breached the Capitol doors and illicitly entered the building in a blatant and deliberate attempt to sow chaos and serve as a disruptive force [who] should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Meanwhile, many of the 33 Jewish members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate also issued statements.

“We are going through an assault on our democracy right here in the Capitol complex,” said Rep. Andy Levin (Democrat, Michigan) in a video posted on social media during the siege, adding, “The president of the United States has encouraged his supporters to overrun the U.S. Capitol.”

“This isn’t the America we love,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (Republican, New York), stressing, “We can debate & disagree, even on Jan 6th after a Presidential election, but in our republic we elect people to voice our objections in the Capitol on this day.”

“Make no mistake: President Trump and his enablers are directly responsible for this violence,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (Democrat, New York), who is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Rep. David Kustoff (Republican, Tennessee) said, “These actions are unacceptable. We are a nation of laws, not a nation of violence.”

“This is outrageous, and the president caused it. We should impeach and convict him tomorrow,” said Rep. David Cicilline (Democrat, Rhode Island).

“The violent attacks we are seeing on our democracy today are reprehensible. It’s time for us as a nation to come together and denounce hate and violence said Sen. Jacky Rosen (Democrat, Nevada).

Vowing to return to the Capitol to complete Biden’s certification after the restoration of order, Sen. Brian Schatz (Democrat, Hawaii) said, “We will perform our obligations as they are written in the Constitution. Authoritarianism will not win.”

“We will not be intimidated by the actions of these terrorists,” said Rep. Susan Wild (Democrat, Pennsylvania), who was photographed lying on the Chamber floor as Jason Crow (Democrat, Colorado) was seen reaching out to her. “We will certify this election. We will fulfill our duty to this country,” she pledged.

Former presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (Democrat, Vermont) said, “The man directly responsible for the chaos of today is Donald Trump, who has made it clear that he will do anything to remain in power – including insurrection and inciting violence,” stressing that “Trump will go down in history as the worst and most dangerous president in history.”

President Trump had lost the support of many key members of his own party even before the outbreak of violence. Longtime Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina) declared Joe Biden is the “legitimate President of the United States” from the Senate floor Wednesday night while stating there was no evidence of electoral fraud that that objecting to the outcome was a “uniquely bad idea.”

“I prayed [Biden] would lose,” Graham said. “He won. He’s the legitimate President of the United States. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become the President and Vice President of the United States on Jan 20.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky) also called on his party colleagues to reject Trump’s effort to overturn the election. “The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken,” he said, emphasizing that, “They’ve all spoken. If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.”