How one of America’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol

Supporters of President Trump stand outside the U.S. Capitol. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Capitol Police direct members and staff out of the chamber after rioters breach the building. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account around 6:20 p.m. Friday night for “incitement of violence.”

Updated January 4, 2022

Complete coverage: Pro-Trump mob storms Capitol building

Shelly Tan is a graphics reporter and illustrator specializing in pop culture. She designs and develops interactive graphics.
Youjin 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 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.