After President Trump urged supporters during a Wednesday rally to march to the U.S. Capitol, in a last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 election results, hundreds of them did just that. A large subset of the crowd descended on the Capitol building — violently clashing with Capitol police outside the building, smashing windows to get in, and sending the Hill into lockdown. While this terrifying seizure was ostensibly to stop the Senate from certifying the Electoral College vote, splinter rallies broke out at statehouses across America on Wednesday.
The day after its historic runoff elections, which flipped Senate control to the Democrats, the Georgia Capitol was surrounded by militia members. According to The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) was escorted out to safety shortly after militia members ascended. Earlier this week, Raffensperger called on Georgia Sen. David Perdue, who lost his re-election bid in the runoffs, to apologize to his wife after she received death threats following Perdue’s calls for Raffensperger's resignation. Raffensperger has become a central figure in politics after audio leaked of Trump’s phone-call plea to "find" him "11,780 ballots" over the weekend.
This became a familiar story for state capitol buildings across the country: an evacuation in New Mexico; hundreds gathered in Colorado, with riot police stationed nearby; supporters raising a massive cross outside the Michigan Capitol. More than 200 Trump supporters descended on the Minnesota Capitol for a “Storm the Capitol” rally. In Topeka, Kansas, dozens of Trump supporters breached the statehouse around the same time that Capitol Hill went under lockdown, but local affiliate KSNT reported that protesters circled up in the rotunda there had remained peaceful.
The defining images of Wednesday’s attempted coup will most certainly emerge from Washington, D.C. — the face-painted MAGA-evangelical standing at the dais, supporters committing federal crimes on camera, scrolling through congressional representatives' emails, and the initial reports of gunshots in the chambers. But this will undoubtedly not be contained to just one city or building.
In his address just after 4:00 p.m., President-elect Joe Biden called on President Trump to go on national television immediately to quell the “unprecedented assault” on democracy. “What we're seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it's disorder. It's chaos,” Biden said.
Shortly thereafter, Trump posted a minute-long video to Twitter, urging his supporters to go home and remain peaceful — hours after the damage was done — while doubling-down on false claims of a stolen election by nebulous others, who are “so bad and so evil.” If the splinter rallies — and the last half-decade of American politics are any evidence — the extremists likely heard the comments around the obligatory “remain peaceful” with crystal clarity.