Carnage at the Capitol

In a historic start to the new year, rioters overran the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in an unsuccessful attempt to keep President Trump in office for four more years. The aggression, building up for years, came to a peak when incumbent President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden. Trump and his supporters demanded investigations and recounts, and declared voter fraud over and over, despite the recounts reaffirming the previously declared victory. Trump had filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts against the election and almost all of them were dismissed or rejected. 

On January 6, Congress met to certify the Electoral College votes and Biden’s victory while the “Save America Rally” held by Trump was taking place outside the White House to protest the validity of the election results. However, the demonstration quickly escalated when the rioters, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, clashed with officers stationed to protect the Capitol. “Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund had assured House and Senate members that his force of 2,000 officers could handle the large expected crowds” according to Karoun Demirjian, Carol D. Leonnig, Paul Kane, and Aaron C. Davis at The Washington Post. Efforts to keep the rioters out were in vain as the mob made their way into the building, simply from walking in or climbing with ropes and ladders. As rioters began to breach the Capitol, Congress was forced into recess and took cover House representatives told to wear gas masks to protect from the law enforcement’s tear gas before evacuated to safe locations. The mob took control of the Senate and House chambers and even Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s offices.

During or following the violence, five people, including a Capitol officer, were killed. Fifteen officers were hospitalized and 50 more had injuries from physical altercations with the rioters. Many of the rioters carried concealed weapons and placed bombs near the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee offices. They threatened the lives of Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence after his refusal to deny the authenticity of Biden’s victory, as it is not in his power, despite Trump’s persistence. Jim Bourg, editor for Reuters News Pictures says, “I heard at least three different rioters at the Capitol say that they hoped to find Vice President Mike Pence and execute him by hanging him from a Capitol Hill tree as a traitor.” Trump had tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done” in overturning the results. The mob went so far as to put up a makeshift gallow and noose outside the building. 

The insurrectionists were carrying plastic handcuffs on their person, assumed to have been used to take hostages. They sported MAGA apparel, some wearing Neo-Nazi gear with references to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This insurrection has been the first incident of the Confederate flag being flown inside the Capitol building. However, despite the terrorism inflicted at his own words, Trump had little to say to call off the rioters he had instigated. He tweeted multiple times asking the mob to be peaceful and recognize the law enforcement as on their side but did not ask them to stand down. He issued a verbal message to his supporters, “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.” Instead of condemning his supporters, as he was implored to do by his staff and other lawmakers, Trump simply sympathized with their anger and violence. Where President Trump lacked, Biden, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, Senator Mitt Romney, and even Pence spoke out against the violence. Later that evening, after months of protests and refusal, Trump finally announced he will accept the transfer of power.

Federal authorities are continuing to arrest insurrectionists that participated in the riots with photo and video evidence taken by the mob during the siege while Trump has been impeached for these actions, this time with votes from Republicans along with Democrats.