'Assault on Democracy.' How the World Responded to a Pro-Trump Mob Storming the U.S. Capitol

Suyin Haynes
The World Reacts To The Storming of US Capitol
The World Reacts To The Storming of US Capitol

Newspaper front pages show yesterday's storming by supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump of the U.S. Capitol on January 7, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. Credit - Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Images of violent rioters storming the U.S. Capitol stunned the world Wednesday, as a pro-Trump mob breached police barricades and sought to force Congress to undo President Donald Trump’s election loss.

Lawmakers gathered in a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory were forced to evacuate as Trump supporters turned violent and stormed the building, making their way into the Senate Chamber.

Politicians around the world quickly condemned the violence, urging respect for America’s democratic processes and a peaceful transfer of power, as international media took up the story.

Australia

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison described the events in Washington D.C. as “terribly distressing, they’ve very concerning.” He added that “as a result, we are making some changes to our travel advice.”

He went on to say: “This is a difficult time for the United States clearly, they’re a great friend of Australia and they’re one of the world’s greatest democracies. And so, we just, our thoughts are with them and we hope funor that peaceful transition to take place.”

Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a radio interview Wednesday that he was “concerned” watching the violent and chaotic scenes unfold in Washington D.C., adding in a tweet that Canadians were “deeply disturbed by the attack on democracy” in the U.S.

Speaking outside his residence on Friday, Trudeau doubled down on his earlier comments, directly blaming Trump for the violent mob at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead. “What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current president and other politicians,” Trudeau said. “As shocking, deeply disturbing, and frankly saddening as that event remains, we have also seen this week that democracy is resilient in America, our closest ally and neighbour. Violence has no place in our societies, and extremists will not succeed in overruling the will of the people.”

China

The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. advised Chinese nationals to “exercise caution before going to public places,” according to a translation posted on Twitter by Economist journalist Simon Rabinovitch.

In article on its home page, the state-backed Global Times newspaper said: “Chinese web users still remember the distress and anger they felt when they saw rioters in Hong Kong storming the Legislative Council Complex, scrawling graffiti, smashing and robbing items, and, instead of condemning the violence, U.S. politicians hailed the ‘courage’ of these mobs.”

On China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, the hashtag #TrumpSupportersBreakIntoUSCongress notched up 270 million posts by 22:00 Eastern Time.

“This is karma,” wrote one Weibo user. “The United States has been fanning the flames all over the world for many years, and now the fire of ‘freedom’ is burning themselves.”

“There are no rules at all and no respect for the law,” said another. “This is the ‘democracy’ they boast about.”

Sima Nan, a veteran Chinese journalist and television commentator with over two million followers in Weibo, mocked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reference to the large scale anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019 as a “beautiful sight to behold.”

Said Nan: “The beautiful sight that [Pelosi] referred to is really here, and it’s even more beautiful.”

Read More: Incited by the President, Trump Supporters Violently Storm the Capitol

Europe

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, tweeted late on Jan. 6, “I believe in the strength of US institutions and democracy. Peaceful transition of power is at the core.” She added that Biden “won the election” and she “look[s] forward to working with him as the next President of the USA”

 

France

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video message on Twitter early on Jan. 7, “France stands strongly, fervently and resolutely with the American people…And we will not yield to the violence of a few individuals who want to challenge [free and fair democratic elections].”Speaking in English, he added: “What happened today in Washington DC is not America, definitely. We believe in the strength of our democracies. We believe in the strength of American democracy.

Echoing worldwide calls for the rioters to respect democracy, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned the violence. “The American people’s will and vote must be respected,” he wrote on Twitter.

Writing in venerable French daily newspaper Le Figaro, one columnist, cited by AFP, wrote that Trump’s “narcissism got the better of his dignity; he has manhandled institutions, trampled on democracy, divided his camp and thrown his presidency in a ditch.”

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the images from the Capitol made her she “furious and also sad.”

In a video posted to Twitter by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Merkel added that the doubts stoked about the U.S. election “set the atmosphere that made last night’s event possible.”

Earlier, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas tweeted “The enemies of democracy will be delighted at these terrible images from Washington DC,” after a Trump supporters were photographed vandalizing lawmakers’ offices, waving Confederate flags, and scaling walls inside the Senate Chamber.

“Trump and his supporters must accept the decision of American voters at last and stop trampling on democracy,” Maas said.

In an editorial, German newspaper Die Welt spoke of a “Day of shame for American democracy.” According to a translation by AFP, the paper said: “The president, his lies, and a spineless Republican party are politically responsible.”

India

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who has been accused by critics of undermining democracy in India, tweeted of his distress at seeing “news about rioting and violence in Washington DC.”

He added: “Orderly and peaceful transfer of power must continue. The democratic process cannot be allowed to be subverted through unlawful protests.“

Members of the National Guard and the Washington D.C. police keep a small group of demonstrators away from the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.<span class="copyright">Spencer Platt/Getty Images</span>
Members of the National Guard and the Washington D.C. police keep a small group of demonstrators away from the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Iran

During a televised speech Thursday on Iran’s state-run news agencies, President Hassan Rouhani called Trump a “sick person” who had disgraced his country. “What happened in the U.S. shows how fragile Western democracy is,” he said, according to CNN. “Despite all their scientific and industrial achievements, we see a huge influence of populism. When a sick person takes office, we see how he disgraces his country and creates troubles for the world.”

Relations between Iran and the U.S. have been especially tense during Trump’s term in office, and the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said in November that Iranian policy towards the U.S. would not change no matter who won the presidential election.

Ireland

Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who had warmly welcomed Joe Biden’s election victory, expressed sadness over the events at the Capitol.

“The Irish people have a deep connection with the United States of America, built up over many generations,” Martin tweeted. “I know that many, like me, will be watching the scenes unfolding in Washington DC with great concern and dismay.”

In a damning opinion piece, Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole said “This was not a moment of madness. It was a show for which Trump had been running trailers for at least a year.”

O’Toole added: “The mainstream right in the U.S. has drifted more and more into the orbit of pre-fascist authoritarianism and lawlessness, even while seeking to retain its sense of conservative respectability.”

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack on the Capitol building was the “complete opposite” of American and Israeli values and that is “must be condemned.”

According to the Times of Israel, he added: “For generations, American democracy has been a source of inspiration for the world and for Israel. American democracy has always been a source of inspiration for me. This violent rioting is the complete opposite of the values held by Americans and Israelis.”

In an editorial, the paper’s founding editor David Horovitz said the storming of the Capitol was “A nauseating effort to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, to thwart the will of the people.”

He went on to write: “Watching from Israel, the unthinkable scenes were made still more unthinkable by our knowledge that our many enemies in this region, who of course are also America’s enemies in this region, were viewing these same scenes with delight.”

Italy

Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the storming of the Capitol was “a real disgrace to democracy” and “an attack on the freedoms of the American people. He added: “We strongly condemn all forms of violence and hope that there will be an orderly and peaceful transfer of power as soon as possible.”

According to AFP, the Italian newspaper La Corriere della Serra spoke of how Trump attempted to “dial down the pressure” from his supporters, “but too late.”

Japan

“We hope that the democracy of America will overcome this turmoil and regain the peace and cooperation of society,” said Katsunobu Kato, the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary.

“We take seriously and with concern the invasion into the US Congress and the filibuster that occurred,” he continued. “Currently, we understand that the invasion into the U.S. Congress has been eliminated and proceedings have resumed. According the media reports, one woman died in this series of events and we would like to express our condolences.”

Protesters gather on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.<span class="copyright">Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images</span>
Protesters gather on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

NATO

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that comprises 30 European and North American countries, urged for respect for the democratic process in the U.S., calling the scenes from Washington D.C. “shocking.”

“The outcome of this democratic election must be respected,” Stoltenberg tweeted.

Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte directly addressed the outgoing President, urging him to recognize President-elect Joe Biden “as the next president today.”

New Zealand

Responding to the unrest in Washington D.C., New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “democracy should never be undone by a mob.”

“Our thoughts are with everyone who is as devastated as we are by the events of today,” Ardern tweeted Thursday morning local time. “I have no doubt democracy will prevail.” New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta too condemned the violence in Washington D.C., and welcomed the Congressional confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden, “reasserting US democratic processes in unprecedented circumstances.”

Russia

Leading Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny tweeted early on Jan. 7, “Putinists are jubilant at the chaos in the United States and are praising ‘Putin’s stability.’ Of course, there are problems there. Many.” In the U.S, he wrote, the average monthly salary is about 306,000 rubles ($4,119). “In Russia, according to official statistics, the average [monthly] salary is around 40,000 rubles [$538], in reality it’s 30,000 rubles [$404],” he said.

Spain

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed his confidence in the “strength of America’s democracy” and said he was following with concern the news coming from the Capitol in Washington. “The new Presidency of Joe Biden will overcome this time of tension, uniting the American people,” he tweeted.

Sweden

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said Wednesday’s events in Washington D.C. were “deeply worrying,” and “an assault on democracy.” He called for the democratic process to be respected. Löfven also directly referenced Trump, tweeting that both Trump and members of Congress “bear substantial responsibility for developments.”

Protesters supporting U.S. President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.<span class="copyright">Win McNamee/Getty Images</span>
Protesters supporting U.S. President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee/Getty Images

Taiwan

Joanne Ou, a spokewoman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said “Taiwan’s foreign ministry expresses regret for the clashes. We will continue to pay close attention to relevant developments.”

She added: “Taiwan’s representative office in the U.S. especially reminds Taiwanese people living there to raise their awareness, pay attention to their own safety and avoid going out during the curfew. The representative office will also provide needed assistance to Taiwanese nationals living in the Washington area.”

Turkey

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “We are following with concern the internal developments happening in the U.S. following the Presidential elections which culminated in the Capitol Hill building being breached by protesters today.”

It added: “We call on all parties in the U.S. to maintain restraint and prudence. We believe the U.S. will overcome this internal political crisis in a mature manner.”

The ministry advised Turkish citizens in the U.S. “to avoid crowded areas and places where protests are taking place.”

Read more: We Must Impeach Donald Trump Again

U.K.

British Prime Minister and longtime Trump ally Boris Johnson condemned the “disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress” on Twitter Wednesday, calling for “a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”

The U.K.’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, backed Johnson, tweeting that “there can be no justification for these violent attempts to frustrate the lawful and proper transition of power.”

Keir Starmer, the leader of the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party, said it was a “direct attack on democracy and legislators carrying out the will of the American people.”

Ukraine

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the scenes in Washington D.C. “concerning”, and said that the rule of law and democratic norms must be “restored as soon as possible”, in a tweet late on Jan. 6. “This is important not only for the U.S., but for Ukraine and the entire democratic world as well”, he added.

Venezuela

The Venezuelan Ministry for Foreign Relations posted a communique to its website condemning “the political polarization and the spiral of violence that does nothing but reflect the deep crisis that the United States political and social system is currently undergoing.”

The Trump Administration has previously attempted to oust Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

“With this unfortunate episode, the United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression,” the Ministry for Foreign Relations said.

With reporting from TIME Staff in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Istanbul and London