George W. Bush Condemns 'Sickening and Heartbreaking' Violence During D.C. Protests

Former President George W. Bush released a statement Wednesday evening condemning the "sickening and heartbreaking" violence that occurred throughout the day as protests continued in Washington, D.C.

Bush said he and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, observed with "disbelief and dismay" the "scenes of mayhem" that broke out after members of Congress convened in the nation's capital for a joint session to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. As television networks across the country broadcast video and images depicting the day's events, Bush attributed the violence to individuals "whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes."

Bush warned against a continuation of the mob violence and called upon Americans to "support the rule of law."

"Our country is more important than the politics of the moment," Bush said. "Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety."

Protests at U.S. Capitol Building
Former President George W. Bush condemned the violence that occurred during protests in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. In the photo above, a pro-Trump mob gathers inside the Senate chamber in the U.S. Capitol after groups stormed the building on January 6, 2021. Win McNamee/Getty

Chief Robert J. Contee III of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference that rioters who attended a rally in support of President Donald Trump marched toward the Capitol Building while legislators started the day's proceedings. As debates began following the first Republican objection to the Electoral College votes for Arizona, some rioters breached the line of law enforcement officials stationed outside the building and headed inside. Contee said "several" MPD officers who were called in to assist U.S. Capitol Police were injured in the fray, and one civilian was shot.

Contee said during the news conference that he could not share additional information regarding the shooting due to an ongoing investigation led by the MPD. The New York Times later reported that the victim had died.

Lawmakers took to social media throughout the day to report that they were sheltering in place as authorities worked to bring the situation under control. President-elect Joe Biden appeared on national television to condemn the violence and encouraged Trump to do the same.

"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," Biden said. "To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, and to threaten the safety of duly elected officials is not protest. It is insurrection."

Trump, who previously requested that Vice President Mike Pence help contest the election results while presiding over Wednesday's joint session, released a video on social media Wednesday afternoon that encouraged rioters to "go home" but also reiterated widely debunked claims that the election had been "stolen" from him.

"This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home," Trump said in the video.

Facebook removed the video from its platform shortly thereafter, and Twitter blocked all engagement with it "due to a risk of violence."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment and will update this article with any response.

Read Bush's full statement here:

"Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation's government in disbelief and dismay. It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic—not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol—and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress—was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law. To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment. Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety. May God continue to bless the United States of America."