European far-right leaders, who once threw their unwavering support behind US President Donald Trump, have condemned pro-Trump protesters who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday as Congress gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s presidential win.
In ugly scenes, hundreds forced their way past metal security barricades, broke windows, and scaled walls to enter the government building in Washington, DC.
The violence, in which at least four people died, saw rioters face off with police in the hallways. At least 52 people were arrested.
Right-wing politicians, including Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the far-right Dutch opposition leader Geert Wilders, Trump’s longtime British ally Nigel Farage and Italy’s far-right League party leader Matteo Salvini, denounced the protesters’ actions.
Unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, however, they stopped short of pinning some blame on Trump.
Meanwhile, others were notably silent.
At the time of publication, populists such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had not commented on the violence, which many viewed as an assault on the symbol of American democracy.
Slovenia’s nationalist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who in November congratulated Trump for “winning” the vote against Biden before an election result, denounced the violence in the US Capitol, adding he hoped American democracy would “overcome this crisis”.
“All should be very troubled by the violence taking place in Washington D.C.,” the leader of the right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party tweeted. “Democracy presupposes peaceful protest, but violence and death threats —from Left or Right— are ALWAYS wrong.”
But he was criticised for taking “a potshot” at the left.
One of Europe’s Little Trumps uses far-right insurrection to take a potshot at the left. Not cool. https://t.co/AvLAlrLTNo
— James Kanter (@jameskanter) January 6, 2021
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally party, said Trump “must condemn what happened” but raised concern that his Twitter and Facebook accounts had been temporarily suspended.
“I consider that in a democracy, we have the right to protest and demonstrate, but peacefully,” she said. “Any act of violence that aims to undermine the democratic process is unacceptable, and I was very shocked at the images on Capitol Hill.”
« Je considère que dans une démocratie, on a le droit de contester et de manifester, mais pacifiquement. Tout acte de violence qui vise à attenter au processus démocratique est inadmissible, et j’ai été très choquée des images au Capitole. » #Les4V pic.twitter.com/x6nuor7qa0
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) January 7, 2021
[Translation: I consider that in a democracy, we have the right to protest and demonstrate, but peacefully. Any act of violence that aims to undermine the democratic process is unacceptable, and I was very shocked at the images on Capitol Hill.]
Farage, a former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), offered a brief comment, saying the “storming” was “wrong”. He has frequently offered vocal support for Trump in the past, and recently appeared on stage with the outgoing US president in an election campaign rally.
Storming Capitol Hill is wrong. The protesters must leave.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 6, 2021
Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), described the scenes in Washington, DC as “shocking”.
“The rule of law is stronger than violence. America stands for liberty and freedom, and democracy will always prevail,” he said. “And the outcome of democratic elections should always be respected, whether you win or lose.”
Shocking images from Washington D.C. The rule of law is stronger than violence. America stands for liberty and freedom, and democracy will always prevail. And the outcome of democratic elections should always be respected, whether you win or lose. #CapitolHill #America pic.twitter.com/oc2CT3F6Zv
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) January 6, 2021
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who heads the country’s centre-right People’s Party, said he was also “shocked” by the violence at the US Capitol.
“This is an unacceptable assault on democracy. A peaceful and orderly transfer of power must be ensured,” he said.
Shocked by the scenes in Washington, D.C. This is an unacceptable assault on democracy. A peaceful and orderly transfer of power must be ensured.
— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) January 6, 2021
In neighbouring Germany, the far-right opposition Alternative for Germany (AfD) party said, “Violence should never be a means of politics.”
“Anyone who violently attacks parliaments aims at the heart of Democracy,” AFD spokesman Tino Chrupalla said. “That’s the case for Washington, DC, Berlin or any other place in the world. For the AfD the preservation of democracy is the foremost political goal.”
Wer Parlamente gewaltsam attackiert, zielt auf das Herz der #Demokratie. Das ist in #WashingtonDC so, in #Berlin oder an jedem anderen Ort dieser Welt. Für die #AfD ist die Bewahrung der Demokratie das vornehmste politische Ziel. Gewalt darf niemals Mittel der Politik sein.
— Tino Chrupalla (@Tino_Chrupalla) January 7, 2021
[Translation: Anyone who violently attacks parliaments aims at the heart of #Democracy. That’s the case for #Washington, DC, #Berlin or any other place in the world. For the #AfD, the preservation of democracy is the foremost political goal. Violence should never be a means of politics.]
Chrupalla’s remarks were echoed in Italy, where Salvini said violence “is never the solution” as he issued a comment on Wednesday’s riot.
“Violence is never the solution, never. Long live Freedom and Democracy, always and everywhere,” Salvini said.
La violenza non è mai la soluzione, mai. Viva la Libertà e la Democrazia, sempre e dovunque.#Washington
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) January 6, 2021
[Translation: Violence is never the solution, never. Long live Freedom and Democracy, always and everywhere. #Washington]
The US Capitol riot came after weeks of baseless claims from Trump that the November 3 US presidential election was rigged. The Republican leader has also frequently urged his supporters to help him overturn his loss.
On Wednesday, he addressed thousands of supporters near the White House and told them to march on the Capitol to express their anger at the voting process.
He later issued a statement confirming there would be an orderly transition when Biden takes office as president in less than two weeks, after Congress certified the Democrat’s victory.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter by White House spokesman Dan Scavino.