NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamians in Maryland, Virginia and Washington were warned yesterday to stay away from the downtown area after thousands of Trump supporters stormed and breached the United States Capitol Hill building.
The demonstrators, in support of President Donald Trump, decried the certification of the US Electoral College vote, as the US Congress was set to confirm that President-elect Joe Biden won the country’s election, 306-232.
The violent mob pushed past police barricades and clashed with law enforcement and destroyed property.
Lawmakers, who were in session, scrambled into hiding with gas masks, as the massive swarm marched into the Capitol.
According to reports, a woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol building and a 6pm curfew was implemented for authorities to get a handle on the situation.
A Bahamian, who traveled to Washington, DC, for the inauguration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, described the scene as “pandemonium”.
Syrant Pierre told Eyewitness News he was just three blocks away from the Capitol when rioters breached the building.
Pierre said the downtown streets had been cordoned off since 10am, with ambulances, police cars and armed law enforcement buses rushing up and down the streets.
He noted that he could see as barricades were being placed on street corridors.
“It’s crazy, it’s really crazy,” he said.
“What you are seeing pales in comparison to what is actually happening.”
Pierre said while he had a birds-eye view of the frightening scene, just three stories above what was happening, he felt relatively safe.
“It truly speaks to what white privilege is,” he continued.
“Once you’re in the middle of it, it’s really real.”
He insisted that the demonstrations and violence witnessed yesterday was a stark difference from the Black Lives Matter protests that dominated global headlines throughout last year.
Protestors in the US rallied across the country’s 50 states against systemic racism and police brutality in demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, 46 — an unarmed black man — at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.
Nearly half of the US had activated its National Guard and Trump warned of military deployment if the violence wasn’t quelled.
Law enforcement officers responded to the demonstrations by using force, tear gas and arresting protestors.
Pierre noted that while he had planned to attend the presidential inauguration, he no longer intends to.
“I will have to do it like most people and watch it live on TV because I’m not going anywhere near the Capitol.”
Bahamas Ambassador to the United States Sidney Collie said all Bahamian embassy and consulate staff were safe and sheltering in place.
Collie noted that he watched and monitored the horrific demonstrations play out from home.
“You are witnessing a breakdown in the demonstration, in the sense that it appears that the Capitol Police and the secret service are understaffed”.
According to the Pentagon, about 1,100 District of Columbia National Guard members were mobilized to help support law enforcement at the Capitol.