Youjin Shin and
Jan. 9, 2021
Jan. 6, 2021, was always on the country’s radar.
Two runoff elections that would determine control of the Senate still had not been decided as Tuesday became Wednesday. A joint session of Congress convened to certify Joe Biden’s electoral-vote win while thousands gathered on the Mall in support of President Trump, who continued to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him.
[The four-hour insurrection: How a Trump mob halted American democracy]
As the scene in D.C. continued to darken, smaller demonstrations across the nation also flared, forcing officials in several statehouses to evacuate.
This is how the day unfolded.
Trump rallies his supporters as Congress convenes
Crowds began forming early in the morning on the White House Ellipse for Trump’s “Save America” rally. During his speech, Trump reiterated multiple falsehoods, claiming the election was rigged and that Democrats had committed voter fraud. By midday, the Capitol was buzzing as Congress convened in a joint session and pro-Trump protesters began to gather around the building’s perimeter.
2:10 a.m. on Jan. 6
Georgia Senate runoff is called for Raphael Warnock (D), who will be the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from a former Confederate state. Read more →
“States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”
Trump supporters amass on the Ellipse near the White House. By 11 a.m. the mostly maskless crowd filled the area. Read more →
Trump begins his more than one-hour speech, repeating false claims about a stolen election and telling the crowd to “never give up” and “never concede.” Read more →
Trump supporters, some armed with guns and riot shields, gather in front of the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock, while protesters at the Idaho Capitol in Boise remain peaceful. Read more →
Crowds from the pro-Trump rally gather outside the U.S. Capitol building.
An initial wave of protesters storms the outer barricade west of the Capitol building as senators and Vice President Pence walk to the House chamber. Read more →
Congress meets in a joint session to confirm Joe Biden’s win, over the objections of some Republicans. Shortly before he opens the session, Pence releases a letter, saying he won’t intervene in Congress’s electoral count. “My oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority,” he says. Read more →
Trump ends his speech by urging his followers to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. “We’re going to the Capitol,” he said. “We’re going to try and give them [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” Read more →
Pro-Trump mob breaches Capitol, forces Congress to adjourn
Soon after Trump ended his speech, violence broke out as a mob forced its way into the Capitol building. They broke down doors and shattered windows to enter, forcing Congress to adjourn and take shelter. Smaller demonstrations began around the country.
Republicans, led by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), object to certifying Arizona’s electoral college votes. The joint session then separates into House and Senate chambers to debate the objection. Read more →
Hundreds rally in front of the Michigan Capitol. Armed protesters had previously stormed the building on April 30 protesting against coronavirus restrictions. Read more →
After Trump’s speech, supporters begin marching toward the U.S. Capitol. Read more →
The crowd outside the building grows larger, eventually overtaking Capitol Police and making their way up the steps. Read more →
During debate in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warns that overturning Biden’s election would push democracy into a “death spiral.” Read more →
Shortly after 1:30 p.m.
Suspicious packages, later confirmed to be pipe bombs, are found at Republican National Committee headquarters and Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Nearby buildings are evacuated. Read more →
Around 2:15 p.m.
The pro-Trump mob breaches the Capitol, breaking windows and climbing inside the building, then opening doors for others to follow. Read more →
By 2:20 p.m.
Both houses of Congress adjourn and start to evacuate as rioters force their way farther into the Capitol. Read more →
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
“Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”
Protesters gather at the Louisiana Capitol, Florida Capitol and Ohio Statehouse. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) — who had rebuffed Trump’s attempts to alter election results in the state in the president’s favor and who has been repeatedly attacked for it — evacuates his office, along with his staff. The Utah and New Mexico capitols are also evacuated. Read more →
Before 3:15 p.m.
Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and avid Trump supporter, is shot by Capitol Police while trying to get into the Speaker’s Lobby. Read more →
“I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order – respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweets that the National Guard and federal forces are on their way to the U.S. Capitol. Read more →
Trump refuses to condemn violence as conflict intensifies
Trump remained relatively quiet, even as the country called on him to make a statement that could end the chaos. Though he eventually told the mob to go home, he simultaneously expressed his love for the rioters and rationalized their feelings.
Police declare a Los Angeles gathering unlawful as conflict breaks out between Trump supporters, counterprotesters and police. Similar clashes happen in Sacramento near the Capitol. Read more →
Trump supporters gather in Austin, Denver and Minneapolis. Denver city offices and the Texas Capitol building close early. Read more →
Biden calls on Trump to “demand an end to this siege.” Read more →
Trump tweets a video telling rioters that he loves them and urging them to go home. He continues to falsely claim that the election was stolen and that he understands how demonstrators feel. Read more →
Jon Ossoff (D) defeats David Perdue (R) in the Georgia Senate runoff, giving Democrats control of Senate. Read more →
Maryland and Virginia send National Guard and state troopers to Washington. Read more →
Protesters in Arizona shout for Gov. Doug Ducey (R) — who certified his state’s election results, despite calls for him not to do so — to come outside, pounding on Capitol doors and cracking a window. A makeshift guillotine is set up near the Arizona Capitol as Trump supporters gather in Phoenix. Read more →
A demonstration at the Oregon Capitol in Salem turns violent, prompting police to declare an unlawful assembly. An hour later, protesters breach the gates of Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) mansion in Olympia, chanting “stop the steal” near his front door. Read more →
Around 5:45 p.m.
Police announce that Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot inside the Capitol, has died. Read more →
D.C. curfew takes effect. Most of the 69 people arrested Wednesday afternoon through early Thursday were on curfew and unlawful entry charges. Read more →
After the Capitol is secured, Congress officially declares that Biden won the election
After more than four hours, the mob was cleared and Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were temporarily locked for policy violations. Congress reconvened to certify the electoral-vote tally. Around 3:40 a.m., more than 13 hours after the Capitol was breached, Vice President Pence officially affirmed the election results, declaring Biden the winner.
Around 5:40 p.m.
Police begin to clear the Capitol as rioters are pushed back and the interior is secured. Congressional leaders announce that they will proceed with the electoral vote tally. Read more →
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Facebook removes Trump’s posts: “We removed from Facebook and Instagram the recent video of President Trump speaking about the protests and his subsequent post about the election results. We made the decision that on balance these posts contribute to, rather than diminish, the risk of ongoing violence.” Read more →
Twitter removes Trump’s tweets and shuts down his account for 12 hours for “repeated and severe violations of [its] Civic Integrity policy.” Read more →
The RNC condemns Capitol violence as an “attack on our country.” Read more →
Pence reopens the Senate, saying, “Let’s get back to work.” Read more →
Facebook blocks Trump’s page for 24 hours because of policy violations, preventing any posts for that duration. Read more →
Pelosi brings the House back into session and vows that “justice will be done.” Read more →
3:42 a.m. on Jan. 7
After both the House and Senate reject challenges to Biden's wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania, Pence officially affirms the election results, declaring Biden the president-elect. Read more →
In the days that followed, shaken and angry members of Congress demanded that Trump take responsibility for inciting violence. Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), called for Trump’s immediate removal from office, either through the 25th Amendment or impeachment.
Five people died as a result of the Capitol breach, one from gunfire and three from medical emergencies. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died Thursday night of unspecified injuries he suffered in the attack.
Trump eventually released a video Thursday evening, calling for calm and declaring he is now focused on a “smooth, orderly, seamless transition of power.” The very next morning, however, he sent another tweet:
10:44 a.m. on Jan. 8
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account around 6:20 p.m. Friday night for “incitement of violence.”
Updated January 9, 2021
Complete coverage: Pro-Trump mob storms Capitol building
Latest: House Democrats move rapidly toward impeaching Trump a second time | Ashli Babbitt’s journey from capital ‘guardian’ to invader | Police support on the right may be eroding
Ashli Babbitt: Her rocky path from Obama backer to devoted follower of Trump and QAnon | Video shows the fatal shooting
Minute by minute: How one of America’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol
Fallout: Twitter permanently bans Trump’s account, citing risk of further violence
Charges: Arkansas man who posed in Pelosi’s office and West Virginia delegate among those charged | Man accused of stealing House speaker’s lecturn charged
Officer dies: Officer Brian D. Sicknick dies after engaging rioters in Capitol mob
Resignations: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigns | Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigns | Full list of resignationsShow More
Shelly TanFollowShelly Tan is a graphics reporter and illustrator specializing in pop culture. She designs and develops interactive graphics.
Youjin ShinFollowYoujin Shin works as graphics reporter at The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she worked as multimedia editor at the Wall Street Journal and a research fellow at the MIT SENSEable city lab.
Danielle RindlerFollowDanielle Rindler is a graphics editor at The Washington Post, where she focuses on immersive visual storytelling. Before joining The Post in 2014, she was a designer at the Arizona Republic.