The chaos unleashed on the US Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters has dominated front pages across the world, with headlines such as “Trump sets fire to Washington”, “Democracy under siege”, and “The Coup of Madness”.
For the most part the international press laid the blame squarely at the outgoing US President’s feet, accusing him of having encouraged the violence.
In Britain, “Trump supporters storm heart of American democracy” was the headline in The Times, describing how “Democrats and Republicans alike pulled on gas masks and sheltered under desks and staff hid in offices.” “Democracy under siege”, wrote The Daily Telegraph, reporting “unprecedented scenes of violence and chaos” in Washington as “hordes of Trump supporters” stormed the Capitol.
For The Guardian, it represented “the most dramatic challenge to the US democratic system since the civil war”.
“Chaos” and “shame” were words that came up again and again in the main European newspapers.
Die Welt led an editorial by its correspondent Clemens Wergin with “Day of shame for American democracy”.
“The US has experienced its first tentative violent coup d’etat”, he wrote, adding “the President, his lies, and a spineless Republican party are politically responsible”.
Süddeutsche Zeitung, under the headline “The coup of madness”, also talked of “Washington’s shame”, while in Spain, El Pais wrote that Mr Trump had “encouraged the chaos”.
The Italian daily La Repubblica went even further, drawing a parallel with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s ascension to power in the 1920s.
“America — all of America — watched on in horror as the equivalent of The March on Rome unfolded in Washington on live television — the invasion of the Capitol, the attack on democracy’s sacredness itself”, began Mario Platero’s article.
La Corriere della Serra delved into the profile of the Trump-supporting Proud Boys — “right-wing extremists, but also women, and young people. Called upon directly by Trump. Who then tried to dial down the pressure on television: ‘We are the party of law and order.’ But too late.”
“Trump: a strategy of chaos” was the front page of French daily Liberation, reinforcing the point in its inside pages with the title “Trump sets fire to Washington.”
In Le Figaro, columnist Philippe Gelie reflected that “Donald Trump could have come out on top — as a strong ‘president of the people’ with a contested, but not negligable, record. “Instead of that, his narcissism got the better of his dignity; he has manhandled institutions, trampled on democracy, divided his camp and thrown his presidency in a ditch.”
“The United States has fallen to the level of Latin-American countries”, was the self-deprecating observation from the Brazilian O Globo.
Matt Pottinger, the White House deputy national security adviser, has resigned in protest over the violence in Washington on Thursday, according to CNN and Bloomberg.
More White House officials are considering following the long-time supporter of US President Donald Trump, the reports said.
‘The protesters are in the building’
Just after 2pm Wednesday, senators were in their chamber debating an objection to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. One floor below, a mob of President Trump’s supporters, who had been amassing outside since the morning, smashed glass and pushed their way past police to gain entry to the Capitol.
At first it didn’t appear lawmakers were aware of the chaos unfolding during what is typically a ceremonial session to certify the election results. Vice President Mike Pence and two guests looked on from the gallery. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont passed his phone back and forth to some of his Democratic colleagues, and scribbled notes to Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, in what appeared to be growing concern.
At about 2:10pm, a hot mic in the Senate chamber picked up ominous words told to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Senate pro-tem.
“The protesters are in the building.”
Mr. Grassley banged the gavel.
Soon he and Mr. Pence, who are both in the line of presidential succession, were evacuated from the chamber. Those remaining inside could hear pro-Trump rioters yelling and police screaming back, punctuated by a loud thwacking sound.