President-elect Joe Biden minced no words Wednesday afternoon in response to the protesters who stormed Capitol Hill, saying that their actions "do not reflect a True America" and "border on seditious."
Biden’s speech from Wilmington, Del., came hours after supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to thwart a peaceful transfer of power, forcing lawmakers to be rushed from the building and interrupting challenges to his Electoral College victory.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
"At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times," Biden said. "Let me be very clear. The scenes of chaos at the Capitol, do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are. What we’re seeing, are a small number of extremists, dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos, it borders on sedition."
Biden had planned to deliver a speech focused on how to revive the economy and provide financial relief for small business owners reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
But shortly before he was to begin speaking, demonstrators broke into the halls of congress, reaching both the Senate floor and 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 6 pm ET, as rioters continued to occupy the capital for hours.
"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."
Biden also called on Trump to "go on national television now" to "demand an end to this siege."
He called it "an assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself. An assault on the people's representatives and the Capitol Hill police, sworn to protect, and the public servants who work in the heart of our Republic. An assault on the rule of law like few times we’ve ever seen."
A joint session of Congress had convened to certify 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 the election.
"We are going to walk down, I'll go with you, to the Capitol, and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women," Trump told the crowd. "We are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I love Pennsylvania Avenue. We are going to the Capitol."
While Trump remained at the White House, many who attended the rally – which was billed as the "Save America March" – headed east to the Capitol.
His supporters moved on to lay siege on the Capitol — leading to unsettling scenes of chaos and violence.
The president remained silent as the violence first flared at the Capitol. But at 2:38 p.m., he tweeted "Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!"
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. While it was not clear if there was additional security around Biden, as the president-elect huddled backstage, agents on his U.S. Secret Service detail stood in their places in front of a stage at a theater in downtown Wilmington, which featured four American flags, for more than an hour.
Minutes after Biden’s speech, the president released a video on social media. Trump repeated his charges that the president election was "stolen from us" and claims that he won in "a landslide."
"I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side," he claimed.
But Trump emphasized that they had to go home. "We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt."
Biden, in his speech, also warned the country.
"Democracy is fragile. To preserve it requires people of good will. Leaders with the courage to stand up. Who are devoted not to the pursuit of power, or the personal interest pursuits of their own selfish interests at any cost, but of the common good," Biden said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.