THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Europeans watched with incredulity and dismay as Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an unsuccessful bid to stop the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
“The scenes from the Capitol are utterly horrifying,” Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, wrote on Twitter, echoing the feelings of many. European leaders widely condemned Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol building that led to a shutdown and delay of the ceremony to certify Biden’s win.
Leaders from most of the European Union’s 27-member states weighed in throughout the evening. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain called the scenes “disgraceful,” and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “Violence is incompatible with the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms.”
Disbelief was a common reaction. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video address, “What happened today in Washington DC is not American, definitely.”
“The US Congress is a temple of democracy. To witness tonight’s scenes in Washington DC is a shock,” said President of the European Council Charles Michel tweeted.
It was the first time the building had been breached since the War of 1812, when invading British troops burned the building. Scorch marks from the fire remain today.
Many put the blame squarely on the shoulders of President Trump. Just before his armed supporters breached the barricades, the outgoing president addressed a rally on Wednesday afternoon, falsely claiming the election was fraudulent and calling on supporters to march to the Capitol building where the 1 p.m. certification ceremony was only just getting underway. The crowd overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and entered the building complex an hour later.
Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin called the violence “the inevitable final phase of Trumpism.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told German lawmakers, “Doubts about the election outcome were stirred and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible.” She said she regretted that Trump had not acknowledged his defeat.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted directly at Trump, writing: “Horrible images from Washington DC Dear Donald Trump, recognize Joe Biden as the next president today.” European Union President Ursula von der Leyen was equally as blunt: “I believe in the strength of US institutions and democracy. Peaceful transition of power is at the core. Joe Biden won the election,” she wrote on Twitter.
In an extraordinary move, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg weighed in, calling the scenes shocking and saying, “The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.” It’s virtually unheard of for the European and North American intergovernmental military alliance to weigh in on the internal politics of members.
On Thursday, newspapers across Europe led with the story. British national newspaper The Times declared “US Capitol under Siege” on its front page, while The Daily Mail ran with “Trump’s hate mob storms the Capitol.” Spain’s newspaper of record El País used the headline “Trump incites a revolt against Biden’s confirmation.” France’s oldest newspaper, Le Figaro, simply wrote “Democracy Broken” above a photo of the mob on the steps of the capitol building.
The German weekly magazine Der Spiegl, the largest in Europe, was published on Thursday morning, before the attack occurred, with a prophetic cover image showing Trump holding a lit match while a mob sets Washington, D.C., alight behind him.
Europe has faced its own problems with mobs assaulting government buildings. Anti-mask demonstrators in Germany — many affiliated with far-right extremist groups — attempted to storm the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, in August. Anti-fuel tax demonstrations by the Yellow Vests in France left Paris’ famed Arc de Triomphe covered in graffiti and more than 250 people injured in 2018 after protests turned violent. Farmers in the Netherlands attempted to enter the Dutch parliamentary complex during protests over emissions regulations but were turned back by the army.