Armed troops outside, political battle inside

As the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump, a lone protester stood in front of the Capitol Building.

He had a sign that read: “Stop Hating Each Other Because You Disagree”, and from a speaker he was playing Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’.

It was a strong message of unity, but the demonstrator was surrounded by stark reminders of the divisions that have been laid bare in Washington in recent times.

As members of Congress were getting ready for the impeachment vote, construction crews were installing tall, unscalable metal fences around the perimeter of Capitol Hill.

Hundreds of armed National Guard troops looked on as workmen hammered and drilled the railings into place.

Exactly one week before, the Capitol Building was under siege. Last night it was in lockdown.

A massive security operation is under way ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week amid fears of further unrest.

The chaos that led to the ring of steel outside was also responsible for the proceedings inside.

Donald Trump was accused of inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol and, as Democrats control the House of the Representatives, the impeachment vote passed as expected.

They were joined by ten Republicans who broke ranks and voted to impeach the president.

Representatives like Dan Newhouse who said there was no excuse for Donald Trump’s actions.

“The president took an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol and he did nothing to stop it,” Mr Newhouse said.

Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, did not vote to impeach but he was critical of Donald Trump.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” Mr McCarthy said.

The big question now is how will Republicans vote when impeachment moves to the senate, with the New York Times reporting that the most senior Republican in the senate, Mitch McConnell is privately pleased with the impeachment effort and believes it will make it easier to purge Mr Trump from the party.

Conviction could result in him being barred from ever holding office again, ruling out a possible run in 2024.

With that in mind, the president released a video message after his impeachment trying to distance himself from the storming of the Capitol but he made no reference to the vote that had just taken place.

“I want to be very clear; I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement,” he said.

Donald Trump will go down in history as the first US president ever to be impeached twice following an unprecedented move by Congress.

But we live in unprecedented times, where right now the Capitol Building resembles a military fortress rather than the seat of US democracy.

As the sun set on Washington, camouflaged soldiers gripped their rifles while fork lifts and trucks delivered additional railings.

Barely audible above the roar of the engines, Bob Marely pleaded; “Let’s get together and feel all right”.