On Wednesday, rioters overran the U.S. Capitol, halting crucial election certification hearings, in scenes of chaos that stunned observers around the world. Members of the mob were seen breaking windows, looting the chambers and invading lawmakers’ offices.
While unheard of for the U.S. Capitol, such scenes are not unfamiliar in the broad sweep of world affairs. Modern history is replete with cases of protesters, ranging from peaceful pro-democracy movements demanding accountability to angry mobs looking to overthrow governments, breaching legislative buildings. Here are some examples of times when rioters or protesters overtook government buildings in other parts of the world.
Pro-democracy protesters stormed Hong Kong’s parliament in the summer of 2019. Wearing hard hats, masks and protective goggles, hundreds of demonstrators smashed windows and broke through barriers to flood into the government building, where they spray-painted the walls and defaced portraits of lawmakers. The vandalism was a relatively unusual show of force in what had been a largely peaceful protest and broad-based movement against a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China. The bill signaled China’s moves to tighten its grip on the island’s semiautonomous rule.
Demonstrators in October occupied government buildings in Kyrgyzstan, protesting the legitimacy of recent parliamentary elections. Protesters descended on the Central Asian country’s main political building, throwing documents and furniture into the streets and starting fires. Hours after the breach, Kyrgyzstan’s election commission annulled the results.
After six weeks of brutal fighting in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a cease-fire deal in November that granted Azerbaijan much of the territory it had regained in the clashes. The terms of the agreement prompted anger in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, where protesters stormed the country’s parliament and other government buildings overnight. The demonstrators left broken glass and destroyed furniture in their wake and ransacked Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s office.
In 1998, protests and riots broke out across Indonesia as part of a student-led movement demanding the resignation of President Suharto, who had been in power since the 1960s. In May of that year, demonstrators, in part responding to the killings of students by security forces, occupied government buildings and continued to call for the Suharto’s resignation. The civil unrest and demonstrations eventually led the dictator to step down and saw the rise of democracy in a country that now holds the world’s largest democratic same-day elections.
Serbia’s government in July, faced with rising coronavirus cases, sought to impose a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread. Demonstrators crowded outside parliament in Belgrade, unmasked, to protest the new restrictions. They broke through a barrier set up by security officials and stormed the government building. Eventually police pushed them out, Reuters reported.
In October 2014, demonstrators in Burkina Faso, angered by President Blaise Compaoré’s push to extend his 27-year rule, set the country’s parliament building on fire, also ransacking offices and setting fire to cars. Opposition to the president’s bid to run for reelection saw protests across the country, with members of the military, including a former defense minister, joining in the demonstrations, according to the BBC.
Photo editing by Olivier Laurent.