Lawmakers saw a day unlike any other at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed their way into both chambers of Congress and forced legislators to evacuate, abruptly bringing the joint session to count Electoral College votes to a halt.
Protesters who had gathered outside on Capitol Hill to contest election results clashed with police before breaking windows and entering the building, and at least one person was shot and killed while five others were reportedly taken to the hospital. Images of members of Congress ducking under their seats while Capitol Police pointed firearms toward the main entrance quickly spread across the internet, as did videos of the mob forcing its way past law enforcement officers.
While simultaneously repeating his claim that the election was stolen from him, Trump also told protesters to go home. Members of Congress from both parties were quick to condemn the actions of rioters, including Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who had planned to object to Arizona's electoral vote.
"Peaceful demonstration is an American value; violent destruction is not," Lankford tweeted shortly after another post in which he said protesters had charged the Capitol. "Attacking police and destroying the Capitol is never a pursuit of truth and freedom. Never."
Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin, OK-2, had also planned to object to the votes in four states, and prior to session he claimed Republicans had "good legal grounding and Constitutional grounding" to contest the election. He was among those photographed crouching among the seats.
"I 100 percent support peaceful protest, but this is not it," said Mullin in a tweet. "What is happening at the Capitol right now is unacceptable and it has to stop immediately."
Local Oklahoma legislators also expressed concern about the scene in Washington, D.C.
"I'm appalled and very disenchanted with what's going on," said State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee. "I don't have any problem with protests, but when you charge into the Capitol building, go into the chambers, and stop the process of law that was going on today with the discussion of the Electoral College, it's not in the best interest of this country."
The National Guard and federal police were eventually called in to help take control.
The moment came shortly after the group of Trump supporters rallied near the White House, where they were encouraged by the 45th president to march to the Capitol with him at their head. Not only did the protesters temporarily stop the congressional count of the Electoral College votes, but they also interrupted perhaps one of the last challenges to President-Elect Joe Biden's victory.
State Rep. Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah, said all of the protesters who broke the law should be prosecuted to the full extent, and he believes they may have done more damage to their cause than good.
"It accomplishes nothing," he said. "To me, they lose what they were protesting about. Their message is tainted now, because they didn't go about it the right way. You went too far, and now to get back to where you were a few hours ago is going to take a lot of time, and healing and effort."
The building was secured by late afternoon, and Congress resumed its session to count the votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the U.S. Senate will not be kept out of the chamber by "thugs, mobs or threats," and those who attempted to disrupt the proceedings failed.
"The United States and the United States Congress have faced down much greater threats than the unhinged crowd we saw today. We've never been deterred before, and we'll be not deterred today," he said.
Vice President Mike Pence, who presided over the joint session, told rioters who stormed the Capitol that they did not win.
"Violence never wins. Freedom wins and this is still the people's house," said Pence. "As we reconvene in this chamber, the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy, for even in the wake of unprecedented violence and vandalism at this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have assembled again on the very same day to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah quickly called the siege an insurrection, incited by the president.
"We gather today due to a selfish man's injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning," said Romney, who was visibly angry.
Former President Barack Obama released a statement in which he said the country is seeing the result of when a political party is unwilling to tell its followers the truth.
"History will rightly remember today's violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation," Obama said. "But we'd be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise."
He was not the only former president to rebuke what unfolded in D.C. Former President George W. Bush compared the event to what happens in a banana republic.
"I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement," Bush said, the last Republican president before Trump. "The violent assault on the Capitol - and disruption of a constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress - was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes."
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have temporarily blocked Trump's account to prevent the encouraging of further violence.
Also on Wednesday, Trump supporters protested Biden's victory at the Oklahoma Capitol, but observers described that event as peaceful.