WILMINGTON, Delaware — US President-elect Joe Biden called Wednesday for the restoration of “just simple decency” as a mob incited by his predecessor stormed the US Capitol and delayed Congress from certifying the results of November’s election in which Biden won the White House.
Biden had planned to deliver a speech focused on how to revive an economy and provide financial relief for small business owners reeling from the coronavirus pandemic from his native Delaware.
But shortly before he was to begin speaking, demonstrators broke into the capital, reaching as far as the House floor. The building was locked down and police with guns drawn moved in as Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were evacuated to secure locations. National Guard troops were deployed and a citywide curfew called for shortly after dusk, as rioters continued to occupy the capital for hours.
“At this hour our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times,” Biden said, adding that what unfolded was, “an assault on the rule of law like few times we have ever seen it.”
He said the uprising bordered on sedition, adding, “The scenes of chaos at the capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are.”
“I call on this mob to pull back and allow democracy to go forward,” Biden said. “At their best the words of a president can inspire, at their worst they can incite. Therefore I call on President Trump to go on national television now, to fulfill his oath and defend the constitution, and demand an end to this siege.”
A joint session of Congress had convened to certified Biden’s election victory. But as that was occurring, Trump addressed thousands of demonstrators who had amassed outside the Capitol to cheer his baseless claims of voter fraud and to protest the results of a free and fair election simply because the candidate they support lost it.
Trump’s supporters moved on to besiege the Capitol — leading to unsettling scenes of chaos and violence unseen in Washington for decades.
Biden’s speech was delayed by more than an hour as the president-elect and aides tore up his scheduled remarks and worked to craft a new statement addressing the scene in the nation’s capital. There didn’t appear to be additional security around Biden, but, as the president-elect huddled backstage, agents on his US Secret Service detail stood in their places in front of a stage at a theater in downtown Wilmington, with featured four American flags, for more than hour.
“All of you have been watching what I’ve been watching,” Biden said at the start of his televised address from Delaware. “At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault. Unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times — an assault on the citadel of liberty, on the Capitol itself… an assault on the people’s representatives, on the Capitol Hill police sworn to protect them, on the public servants who work at the heart of our republic. An assault on the rule of law… an assault on the most sacred of American undertakings, the doing of the people’s business.”
He called the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol “a small number of extremists” and said their behavior “borders on sedition and it must end now. I call on this mob to pull back and let the work of democracy go forward.”
“To storm the capital, to smash windows, to occupy offices,” Biden continued, “it’s not a protest. It’s insurrection. The world’s watching. Like so many other Americans, I am genuinely shocked and sad that our nation, so long a beacon of light and hope for democracy, has come to such a dark moment.
“Through war and strife, America has endured much. And we will endure here and we will prevail again and we’ll prevail now. The work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honor respect, the rule of law — just plain, simple decency… not stoking the flames of hate and chaos,” said Biden.
He said America is “about honor, decency, respect, tolerance — that’s who we are. That’s who we’ve always been.
“The certification of the electoral college vote is supposed to be a sacred ritual … to affirm the majesty of American democracy. But today is a reminder, a painful one, that democracy is fragile, and to preserve it requires people of goodwill, leaders with the courage to stand up, and devoted not to the pursuit of power, or pursuits of their own selfish interests at any cost, but of the common good. Think of what our children watching television are thinking. Think what the rest of the world is looking at.”
Biden cited Abraham Lincoln, whose work he said had been interrupted today, quoting “the way is plain”: “The way is plain here too… It’s the way of democracy, of respect, decency, of honor, and commitment as patriots to this nation.”
He said despite the scenes he remained optimistic. “There’s never been anything we can’t do, when we do it together. This god awful display today is bringing home to every Republican and Democrat and Independent in the nation that we must step up. This is the United States of America…
“So President Trump, step up,” he demanded.
“May God bless America. May God protect our troops, and all those folks at the Capitol, in trying to preserve order,” Biden concluded.