Skip to main content

How a violent Trump-supporting mob stormed the Capitol

We analyzed videos, photos, social media posts, and more to reconstruct how the group attacked and overpowered police and entered the Capitol

It was a dark day in US history: Hundreds of President Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, as the House and Senate began to certify Joe Biden’s election as the country’s 46th president. Rioters overpowered police, broke windows, and entered the building, ultimately making it into the House and Senate chambers. The mob’s goal was seemingly to overturn the results of the election, after Trump had repeatedly falsely asserted that he was the true winner and that his supporters needed to fight back.

See below how the day unfolded.

From 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m.

capitol map

Save America Rally


A large crowd gathers to hear President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the president’s sons speak at a rally south of the White House. In his speech, Trump claims falsely that the election was stolen and that he would never concede. He calls on the crowd to "fight like hell" and urges them to march on the Capitol, which many of them then did.

9:15 a.m.

President Trump tweets state legislatures should be allowed to change their Electoral College votes

Donald Trump Twitter logo

The States want to redo their votes. They found out they voted on a FRAUD. Legislatures never approved. Let them do it. BE STRONG!

Around 1 p.m.

Joint congressional session begins in the Capitol...

The session is brought to order at 1:03 p.m. by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after Vice President Mike Pence arrives. Arizona results are soon challenged by Representative Paul Gosar and Senator Ted Cruz, triggering separate two-hour debates in the House and Senate.

...while the protesters march from the Trump rally

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on Wednesday at the Capitol in Washington.
(John Minchillo/AP)

Trump supporters clash with police outside the building, pulling down barricades. Outgoing Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund tells Capitol security officials, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger that he wants an emergency declaration and to call in the National Guard.

About 2:11 p.m.

capitol map

Rioters breach and storm the Capitol


Eric Lee/Bloomberg
Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg
Jose Luis Magana/ AP


Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Trump supporters — some of whom had walked from the rally —  push past police and break down barriers. Some ran up the Capitol steps, others scale the walls of the exterior. At the top, they attempt to break windows, and bang on the doors.

2:13 p.m.

Vice President Pence narrowly avoids the mob

Jazmine Ulloa/Globe Staff

Mike Pence leaves the Senate floor and, along with his wife and daughter, is moved to a nearby office by Secret Service officers. One minute later, rioters chase Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman up a flight of stairs to a landing on the second floor, less than 100 feet from where the Vice President was hiding.

Sometime later, the Vice President, his family, his chief of staff Marc Short, his press secretary Devin O’Malley, and several other staffers were moved from the office to a secure room in the Capitol complex by Secret Service officers.

Beginning at 2:19 p.m.

capitol map

The House and Senate are evacuated

Beginning around 2:30 p.m.

Chaos ensues inside the Capitol

Demonstrators walk through the U.S. Capitol after breaching the barricades.
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg
Security officers point weapons at a House chamber door as a mob of rioters storms the Capitol
Bill O'Leary/Washington Post

@cbszak, @hanbanana124, @mattmiller757/Twitter

A supporter of President Trump sat inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
A supporter of President Trump sat inside the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Shots are heard inside, an intruder invades Pelosi’s office, and Trump supporters make it into the House and Senate chambers. The mob roams the Capitol.

2:38 p.m.

As the mob swarmed the Capitol, Trump singles out Vice President Pence on Twitter

Donald Trump Twitter logo

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!

Around 3 p.m.

The shooting

Ashli Babbitt (Maryland MVA/Calvert Co. Sheriff)

The disorder escalates, and US Capitol Police shoot 35-year-old Trump supporter and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt as she tries to break through a barricaded door. She later died.

3:13 p.m.

President Trump asks rioters to remain peaceful, but does not ask them to leave the Capitol building

Donald Trump Twitter logo

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!

3:33 p.m.

National Guard is activated


After the mob had been in the Capitol building for at least an hour, the National Guard is called.

4 p.m. and 4:17 p.m.

Biden and Trump speak

Biden condemns…

Biden speaks.
Susan Walsh/AP

President-elect Biden calls the men and women who invaded the Capitol a “mob” of “extremists.” He also demands President Trump come on TV and denounce the protesters, which Trump did not do.

...while Trump says ‘you are special’

Photo from Trump’s video statement.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Trump asks supporters to leave peacefully, but also says, “we love you, you’re very special.”

5:50 p.m.

Officials declare the US Capitol complex secure

John Minchillo/ AP

After the violent mob of  Trump supporters occupy the building for four hours, they are expelled.

6:01 p.m.

President Trump appears to excuse the actions of the mob as he asks them to leave the area. Twitter quickly removes the tweet

Donald Trump Twitter logo

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!

7:02 p.m.

Twitter suspends Trump’s account

After tweeting false statements about having the election stolen from him, the social media company retracts the tweets and says it will suspend his account for 12 hours.

8 p.m.

Congress reconvenes to resume counting electors


Lawmakers come back to finish the process they started hours earlier: the certification of electoral college votes for President-elect Joe Biden. At 3:45 a.m., Biden is certified as winner of the 2020 election.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.