Leaders around the world expressed shock and concern as a pro-Trump mob attacked and occupied the U.S. Capitol Building, where Congress meets.
The attack took place as lawmakers were counting electoral votes to make President-elect Joe Biden’s election win official. The event, which takes place every four years on January 6, is the final step in confirming the winner of a presidential election.
At least four people died in connection with the attack.
The violence forced Congress to suspend its meeting and move lawmakers and others to safety. Those lawmakers included Vice President Mike Pence, who presides over the count.
Congress confirmed Biden’s victory in the early hours of January 7, after the rioters were removed and the Capitol building was secured.
“What happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video message on Twitter late Wednesday. “We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel partly blamed President Donald Trump for the situation because he has not admitted he lost the election.
“A fundamental rule in democracy is that, after elections, there are winners and losers," Merkel said, adding that both sets have to act responsibly “so that democracy itself remains the winner.”
British Prime Minister Boris called the event “disgraceful.” He wrote on Twitter, “The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
The prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, tweeted: “The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.”
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tweeted: “Democracy - the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully - should never be undone by a mob.”
Countries that often face U.S. criticism over violations of democratic values also reacted.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said the attack proved the weakness of Western democracy. Iran’s pro-government Twitter accounts published images of the mob attack with hashtags that included #DownfalloftheUS.
Chinese officials compared the storming of the Capitol to the often-violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Those protests have slowed because of the coronavirus crisis and the government’s use of severe security measures. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said: “We also wish that U.S. people can enjoy peace, stability and security as soon as possible.”
Images taken from inside the Capitol show the attackers breaking windows, damaging lawmakers’ chambers and offices, and attacking police officers. One attacker was shot inside the Capitol and later died at a local hospital. Three other people died in the attack.
The Capitol Building is an internationally recognized structure and a symbol of American democracy. Violence at the site is extremely rare.
Shariman Lockman is a senior foreign policy and security studies expert with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia. He told VOA the riot “doesn’t put America in the best light.”
“It just compounds negative thoughts that people already have about America," Lockman said. "You know, you can’t get COVID right, and you can’t get your elections right. You [the U.S. government] keep telling us how to organize ourselves, but you can't organize yourselves right."
In a televised speech Thursday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the events at the Capitol were evidence that Western democracy is easily damaged by populism. Rohani added he hoped “the next occupants of the White House” will “restore the country to a position worthy of the American nation, because the American nation is a great nation."
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson adapted this story based on reports by VOA News, Reuters and The Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
disgraceful - adj. related to causing someone to feel ashamed
vital - adj. extremely important
transfer - n. the act or process of giving the property or rights of one person to another person
allow - v. to permit
stability - n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change
compound - v. to make (something, such as an error or problem) worse : to add to (something bad)
negative - adj. harmful or bad : not wanted