Storming of the Capitol: The Facts

Caitlynn Krupp

      On January 6, 2021 lawmakers gathered to certify Joe Biden as the country’s 46th president, but they were disrupted by a group of pro-Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol building where the certification was taking place. Everyone expected resistance and everyone expected a protest, but no one could anticipate that the group would take control of the Capitol. Many emotions were raging inside of the building and throughout the country on both Democrat and Republican sides, and the nation was left in shock. 

         Contrary to what the initial assumption was, the insurrection was not a spur of the moment decision, it was planned online days prior to the event. According to Zignal Labs, a media insights company, the phrase “Storm the Capitol” was mentioned 100,000 times preceding to January 6. This subject was not just confined to the dark corners of the internet though, the topic was also seen on many viral tweet threads where the participants discussed the feasible storming. How to enter the building and tactical tips were brought up. On a far right social media platform called Gab a message read “Pack a Crowbar,” along with multiple messages similar to this discussing what weapons to bring. Various ways to get to the rally were also discussed online and many were linked to online fundraising, which have now been shut down.

        Starting at around 9 a.m on Wednesday Jan. 6 President Trump held a “Save America Rally.” Trump had urged his supporters through social media to attend his “Save America March” and according to the New York Times Trump tweeted “be there, will be wild!” At the rally Trump reiterated many of his falsehoods about the election being stolen and how he does not plan to concede. He encouraged the crowd to go to the Capitol and in his speech, with a brief suggestion that the protest should be nonviolent, stated “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Many supporters of Trump have been pointing to this quote to prove that he was calling for the protesters to remain peaceful. Trump also had told the crowd that “different rules” pertain in his speech, “When you catch somebody in a fraud, you are allowed to go by very different rules. So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do, and I hope he doesn’t listen to the RINOs and the stupid people that he’s listening to.” It is clear that the president wanted Pence to reject the state-certified Electoral College results. Trump also suggested that he didn’t want his supporters to solely protest, he wanted them to stop the certification. In another except from the presidents speech he states “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people came up with, we will stop the steal.” Mr. Trump told his followers that they could stop Mr. Biden’s win if they “fight like hell” which some claim that it suggests they act and not only protest. He had also falsely told his supporters that he would walk with them, which many in the group were excited about, and after he spoke he sent the marchers towards the Capitol where the violence soon commenced. 

       At around 2:15 p.m when the group entered the Capitol building by force, inside and outside became absolute chaos. The crowd pushed past police and some began to scale the walls of the building, while some broke windows, and many began to bang on the doors. The group while breaking down barricades sprayed chemical irritants and wielded various weapons, which resulted in dozens of injured officers. Within five minutes the House and Senate were evacuated, the main goal of security being to protect the lawmakers not the building. Capitol Police did not offer much resistance, initially only arresting 14 people and it took over an hour before the National Guard was called and four hours until the complex was declared secured. Within the building there were weapons being fired and the US Capitol Police shot Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt who later died. An officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher later died too along with 3 others who died of medical emergencies on the Capitol grounds. Listening to various live streams from the day, the crowd can be heard chanting “Our president wants us here”, “U.S.A! U.S.A!”, “Keep moving forward! Fight for Trump, fight for Trump!”, “Arrest Congress!”, “Whose way? Our way!”, “Hell No, Never Joe”, “Stop the Steal”, and more. The crowd inside was excited at the prospect of helping their president. Kevin Hagg, a man who was at the Capitol, but did not enter said he would never forget the sense of empowerment he felt as he saw the thousands of protesters. Some within the group were in awe while others took action. Trump flags and American flags were everywhere, many within the crowd violating flag code. A man once photographed sitting across from president Trump declared it “was a great day for America.” Some within crowd stood on the baloney spraying fire extinguishers down on police and several can be heard trying to find various congress members, primarily Nancy Pelosi whose office was broken into. In pictures and videos multiple people were seen carrying flex cuffs which are plastic restraints used by the police, though some when asked they claimed they had no plan on using them. Trump supporters within the building were frustrated when the president had seemed to give up after they had endangered themselves for him. Though it is said even without Trump the movement will continue.

        An unanswered question asked by many is, why did the authorities not prepare effectively? Six days prior to the rally hosted by President Trump, Representative Maxine Water voiced her concerns to the chief of Capitol police. Ms. Waters said each disquiet was met with an interchangeable response by Chief Steven Sund: “He assured me that they have everything under control, that they were on top of everything.” Which they were not. Usually protesters cannot get anywhere near the Capitol steps, and policing experts were quick to note the absence of crowd control tools. Pentagon officials said that the Capitol Police had turned down an offer for additional National Guard troops in advance to the event and initially did not accept help from the F.B.I. Many in law enforcement said they are baffled as to how the event was able to occur at all. Chief Sund has resigned since the events. 

        The aftermath of the insurrection is messy and emotional. After an initial minuscule amount of arrests many were and are still being made. It is said more than 70 people have been charged. Some arrests include Jake Angeli (the man with his face painted red, white, and blue wearing a fur headdress with horns), Adam Johnson (the man who was smiling as he hauled off Nancy Pelosi’s lectern), Richard Barnett (the man photographed sitting with his feet on Ms. Pelosi’s desk), Robert Keith Packer (the man wearing a sweatshirt with a reference to a Nazi deathcamp), and many more. Most have been arrested for similar charges of unlawful entry. Participants in the event are frantically working towards removing the digital evidence in fear of repercussions. Many within the Trump administration have resigned since the jan. 6 including the education secretary, the transportation secretary, the deputy national security adviser, and several more. All of them seem to be leaving for the same reason, that reason being both the storming of the Capitol and the president’s reaction. At around 7 p.m on Wednesday Trump’s twitter account was suspended after tweeting false statements about having the election stolen and to prevent a repeat of Wednesday’s attack. In addition, Trump is now facing a second impeachment. The House is impeaching Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection.’ 10 members of the president’s own party joined the 222 democrats to impeach him. The voting was 232 to 197 and the House requested his immediate removal from office along with disqualifying him from ever running again. The House’s vote was historic considering that no president has ever been impeached twice. Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” later adding “It gives me no pleasure to say this — it breaks my heart.” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy stated “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” he continued “he should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” 

        Throughout the country many are voicing their opinions, both citizens and politicians. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., criticized the difference between the violent treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters and the outnumbered officers who offered little resistance to the primarily white pro-Trump group. “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden stated. “We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable.” This point has been brought up often in trending online discussions. President-elect Biden demanded that Trump go on TV and denounce the protesters, which he did not do. Biden had also said “At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite.” The president’s encouragement of the group could not have been anticipated according to many law enforcement officials. With kind words in a video statement hours after the riot began the president states “You have to go home now” with the addition of “We love you. You’re very special.” That night revealed the split of everyday Americans supporting their president and those prepared to go to dangerous lengths for him. Many Republicans were upset with the crowd, while some defend it. Democrats seemed to have a uniform response of disgust towards the event. In contrast to Trump’s kind words, the Vice President said “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win.” He continued “Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the people’s house.” Senator Mitt Romney had said “We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning. What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.” Everyone has their own thoughts and opinions on the insurrection.        

        On Jan. 6 the transition of power was disrupted by an insurrection at the Capitol building, but in the end the day’s purpose was fulfilled. At around 8 p.m the lawmakers continued the process they had started earlier that day and they certified Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election. Moments after the certification of Biden’s victory Trump said in a statement “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,”. With federal authorities warning this event will be a ‘significant driver of violence’ a question everyone is wondering is, is this the start or the end of election related violence?