As militant Trump supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden’s speech was initially scheduled as remarks on an economic briefing, The New York Times reported. It was briefly delayed because hoards of violent President Trump-supporting extremists stormed the Capitol, egged on by Trump, and put a halt to the Electoral College’s vote certification for the 2020 election. Biden instead addressed the country with a strong message that this “insurrection,” as he called it, was a dangerous attack on American democracy.
“At this hour, our country is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times — an assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself,” Biden began. He went on to describe the situation at the Capitol as “an assault on the rule on the rule of law like few times we have ever seen it, an assault on the most sacred of American undertakings, the doing of the people’s business.”
“The scenes of chaos at the Capitol,” Biden continued, “do not reflect a true America. They do not represent who we are.” He added: “What we’re seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition, and it must end now.”
They were relatively strong words from a man known, generally, for trying to create coalitions out of conflict. But even the perennially diplomatic Biden addressed the mob directly, asking them to pull back and allow the work of democracy to move forward. He called their actions “an insurrection,” and reminded us all that “the world is watching” these dark moments in American history.
“At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite,” Biden said, referring to the way Trump actively ignited this volatile situation. “I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”
A few minutes after Biden delivered his remarks, Trump posted a video telling the rioters — whom he had previously encouraged to storm the Capitol — that he sympathized with them, but that it was time for them to go home. But in between telling them to disperse, he also falsely insisted that the election was “fraudulent,” and told the violent mob that had threatened the Capitol to the point of lockdown: “You're very special.”