Mike Pence Declares Protesters Who Stormed Capitol Will Be Prosecuted 'to Fullest Extent of the Law'

Vice President Mike Pence joined other Republican leaders who condemned the havoc incited by protesters as they stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday afternoon.

Responding to the violence that took place when President Donald Trump's supporters breached the federal building, Pence initially urged those involved to vacate the area. He subsequently said that those who failed to comply would face disciplinary consequences.

"The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol Must Stop and it Must Stop Now," the vice president wrote on Twitter. "Anyone involved must respect Law Enforcement officers and immediately leave the building."

He added, "Peaceful protest is the right of every American but this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Reports of pro-Trump protesters' aggressive confrontations with police surfaced throughout the afternoon. The widespread rallies in Washington, D.C., coincided with Congress' joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. One person was reportedly shot inside the Capitol as protests escalated.

Ahead of Wednesday's scheduled rallies to protest the outcome of November's election, Trump supporters from across the country traveled to Washington. The sitting president has not conceded to Biden, even as Inauguration Day approaches, and he has galvanized his followers to reject the legitimacy of his successor's win.

Over the past two months, Trump's campaign initiated numerous lawsuits that sought to undermine election results in states and counties that voted for his Democratic opponent. Despite proving unsuccessful in court, that campaign continued to insist that Biden's victory was invalid and that Democrats "stole" the election. Those allegations are baseless, but a group of Republican lawmakers decided to challenge Biden's win during Wednesday's congressional meeting at the Capitol.

Members of far-right groups, including the Proud Boys, participated in pro-Trump rallies that unfolded at the same time as the meeting of senators and representatives. The rallies eventually descended into the violence and chaos seen at the Capitol later Wednesday afternoon, when protesters gathered outside and some armed participants entered the building itself. Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and the president called for the demonstrations to remain peaceful.

U.S. Capitol, Donald Trump, Protest, Electoral College
Vice President Mike Pence said individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol building during pro-Trump rallies Wednesday "will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." Samuel Corum/Getty

The Capitol was placed under lockdown, and several buildings near the complex were evacuated in response to the protests. Officials also deployed members of the D.C. and Virginia national guards, as well as hundreds of Virginia state troopers. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a curfew on all city residents that will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday and extend through 6 a.m. Thursday.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

This story was updated at 4:58 p.m. to include additional details and background information.