THE Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, has condemned the “coup attempt” on the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, in which four protesters died.
The Capitol Building, the seat of the legislative branch of the US federal government where Congress meets, was stormed by thousands of supporters of the former President Donald Trump, who had encouraged the protests in an attempt to overturn his defeat in the presidential election. He has refused to concede.
The attack took place as Congress was meeting to certify the votes of the Electoral College and confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, which Mr Trump and a Republican faction in Congress have sought to overturn on false grounds. Shortly before, Trump had addressed a rally outside the White House, in which he repeated false claims to have won the election, and asked Congress to overturn the results.
It was reported that one woman was shot by police during the attempted siege, while three others died as a result of “medical emergencies”. The mob was eventually cleared from the building, and Congress reconvened to confirm Mr Biden’s victory, after objections by some Republican lawmakers to overturn the result in Arizona and Pennsylvania were voted down.
Bishop Curry said on Wednesday night: “The events at our Capitol today are deeply disturbing. We believe the actions of armed protesters represent a coup attempt.” The protesters, he said, had threatened the “ safety of lawmakers, their staff and others who work in the Capitol complex.
“This threatens the integrity of our democracy, the national security of our nation, the continuity of government, and the lives and safety of our legislators, their staffs, law enforcement and all who work in the Capitol.”
He continued: “We are a democracy with longstanding institutional norms that must be honoured, foremost among them following the processes laid out in the Constitution and federal statute to facilitate the peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
Mr Biden said in a statement: “Let me be very clear: the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent who we are. What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it's disorder. It borders on sedition, and it must end. Now.”
The violence came as two Democrats — a Baptist pastor, the Revd Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff — won Senate seats in elections in Georgia, meaning that the Democratic Party now takes control of the Senate, a crucial development at the start of President Biden’s taking office later this month.
The Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd Mariann Budde, addressed the nation through Facebook Live broadcast on Wednesday. She said: “Our process is democratic, yes, but it is also built on some fundamental principles: we care for our neighbours as ourselves. We accept outcomes we may not like. We live to struggle another day. We are gracious in victory and magnanimous in defeat.
“But that is not what we are seeing today. The demonstrations here in Washington want to take those foundational principles — principles that have undergirded this nation for nearly 250 years — and toss them out. They do not respect our laws. The protesters do not respect our social contract. They do not respect our safety. And they bring dishonour to themselves and on those they claim to support.”
Several other Episcopal diocesan bishops across the US condemned the violence and called for prayer. They were joined by the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who said: “I join people of good will in condemning the violence today at the United States Capitol. This is not who we are as Americans. I am praying for members of Congress and Capitol staff and for the police and all those working to restore order and public safety.
“The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of this great nation. In this troubling moment, we must recommit ourselves to the values and principles of our democracy and come together as one nation under God.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury also called for prayers for the United States in a social media post on Wednesday. He said: “There will be many lessons to be learned from the scenes in Washington. For the moment let us pray for the USA, the world’s greatest defender of democracy until now, as it faces this huge shock. May God bless America with peace and reconciliation.”
The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, said that he had been saddened by the events. “In such circumstances, it is important that political leaders impress on their followers the need to refrain from violence, as well as to respect democratic processes and the rule of law.”
Mr Trump has since had his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts officially suspended for 24 hours, after his messages to protesters and false claims of election fraud were deemed to be “severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy”. Further violations would result in his accounts being permanently removed, the media companies said.
Mr Trump said on Thursday morning: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”