Under battle flags bearing Donald Trump’s name, attackers on Capitol Hill pinned a bloodied policeman in a doorway, his face contorted and his screams captured on video. They fatally wounded another officer with a blunt weapon and slammed a third over a railing in the crowd.
“Hang on Mike Pence,” chanted the insurgents as they sneaked inside, hitting the police with pipes. They also asked where House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi was. They hunted down all the lawmakers: “Where are they? Outside, a makeshift gallows stood, with sturdy wooden steps and a noose, guns and homemade bombs had been hidden nearby.
Days later, the extent of the danger of one of the darkest episodes in American democracy becomes evident. The sinister nature of the assault became evident, betraying the mob as a force determined to occupy the inner sanctuaries of Congress and disparage the leadership – Trump’s vice president and the Democratic House speaker among them.
It wasn’t just a collection of Trump supporters with MAGA bling caught in a wave.
That revelation came in real time to Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Who briefly resumed House business as the crowd closed on Wednesday and Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi bustled with safer neighborhoods before. that all does not happen. out of whack.
“I saw this crowd of people banging on that glass screaming,” McGovern told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Looking at their faces, I thought they were not protesters. These are people who want to do harm. ”
“What I saw in front of me,” he said, “was essentially local fascism, out of control.”
Pelosi said Sunday that “the proof is that this was a well-planned and organized group with leadership, guidance and direction. And the direction was to go get people. She did not elaborate on this point in a “60 minute” interview on CBS.
The scenes of rage, violence and agony are so vast that it can still be incomprehensible. But with countless smartphone videos emerging from the scene, largely by jubilant insurgents themselves, and more and more lawmakers recounting the chaos that surrounded them, the contours of the uprising are increasingly in relief.
The crowd received explicit marching orders from Trump and even more encouragement from the president’s men.
“Fight like hell,” Trump urged his supporters at the rally. “Let’s do a trial by combat,” implored his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whose attempt to reject the election results in a court trial failed. It’s time to “start taking names and kicking ass,” said Republican Mo Brooks of Alabama.
Criminals pardoned by Trump, including Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, have come forward at rallies on the eve of the attack to tell crowds they are fighting a battle between good and evil and are on the side good. On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri greeted the hordes outside the Capitol as he rose to challenge the election results.
The crowd was pumped. Until just after 2 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was at the helm for the last few minutes of decorum in partnership with Pence, who was fulfilling his ceremonial role of presiding over the process.
Both men had backed Trump’s agenda and excused or ignored his provocations for four years, but no longer had the mechanism or the will to overturn the election won by Biden. This placed them first among the targets of the insurgents, no different in the minds of the crowd of “socialists”.
“If these elections were quashed by mere losing side allegations, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” McConnell told his chamber, shortly before things got out of hand in what lawmakers are calling the “House of the people”.
Thousands had invaded the Capitol. They charged the police and the metal barricades outside the building, pushing and beating the officers in their path. The assault quickly passed through the largely outnumbered police line; officers took down a man and beat him.
In the melee outside, near the structure built for Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, a man threw a red fire extinguisher at the helmeted head of a policeman. Then he took a megaphone and threw it at the officers too.
The identity of the agent could not be immediately confirmed. But Capitol Policeman Brian Sicknick, who was injured in the chaos, died the following night; Officials say he was hit on the head with a fire extinguisher.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Capitol Police sent an alert asking workers in an office building at the house to proceed towards the underground transport tunnels that crisscross the complex. Minutes later, Pence was taken from the Senate chamber to a secret location and police announced the Capitol lockdown. “You can move around the building (s), but stay away from windows and exterior doors,” the email blast said. “If you are outside, seek shelter.”
At 2:15 p.m., the Senate suspended its debate on the Electoral College and a voice was heard over the audio system in the chamber: “The protesters are in the building.” The bedroom doors of the House were boarded up and lawmakers inside were told they might need to hide under their chairs or move to the locker rooms on the house floor because the mob violated the law. Capitol rotunda.
Even before the crowds reached the sealed doors of the house’s bedroom, Capitol Police pulled Pelosi away from the podium, she told “60 minutes.”
“I said, ‘No, I want to be here,’ she said. “And they said, ‘Well, no, you have to go.’ I said, “No, I’m not leaving. They said, ‘No, you have to go.’ That’s what she did.
At 2:44 p.m., as lawmakers inside the Chamber prepared to be evacuated, gunfire was heard from outside, in the Speaker’s Hall, on the other side of the barricaded doors. It was at this point that Ashli Babbit, wearing a Trump flag as a cape, was shot on camera as insurgents swayed, her blood spilling onto the white marble floor.
The California Air Force veteran had climbed through a shattered window into the President’s lobby before a police gunshot knocked him down.
Back in the Chamber bedroom, a woman on the balcony was seen and heard screaming. Why she was doing this only became clear later when the video circulated. She was shouting a prayer.
Within about 10 minutes of the shooting, lawmakers and House staff who had curled up during the assault, terror etched on their faces, were taken from the chamber and gallery to a secure room. . Crowds broke into Pelosi’s offices as members of his staff hid in one of the rooms in his suite.
“The staff walked under the table, barricaded the door, turned off the lights and remained silent in the dark,” she says. “Under the table for two and a half hours.”
On the Senate side, Capitol Police had surrounded the chamber and ordered all staff and reporters and nearby senators to enter and lock the chamber. At one point, about 200 people were inside; an officer armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon stood between McConnell and Democratic leader Senator Chuck Schumer.
Authorities then ordered an evacuation and rushed everyone inside to a safe place, with parliamentary Senate staff picking up the boxes containing the election sticking certificates.
Although the attackers on Capitol Hill were dispatched with Trump’s exhortation to fight, in some cases they seemed surprised that they actually succeeded.
When they entered the abandoned Senate chamber, they searched through papers, sat at a desk, and took videos and photos. One of them walked up to the platform and shouted, “Trump won this election!” Two others were pictured wearing flexible cuffs typically used for mass arrests.
But outside the chamber, the mob hunt was still on for lawmakers. “Where are they?” You could hear people screaming.
This question could also have applied to the reinforcements – where were they?
At around 5:30 p.m., once the National Guard arrived to supplement Capitol’s overwhelmed police force, a full effort began to get the attackers out.
Heavily armed officers brought in as reinforcements began using tear gas in a coordinated fashion to get people to move towards the door, then combed the hallways for stragglers. As darkness fell, they pushed the crowd further into the plaza and lawn, using officers in riot gear in full shields and clouds of tear gas, flash bangs and hand grenades. percussion.
At 7:23 pm, officials announced that people squatting in two nearby Congressional office buildings could leave “if anyone had to.”
Within an hour, the Senate resumed its work and the Chamber followed suit, placing the People’s House under the control of the representatives of the people. Lawmakers confirmed Biden’s election victory early the next morning, shocked by the catastrophic security failure.
Representative Maxine Waters, D-Ca., Told AP on Sunday that it was as if the Capitol Police “were naked” against the attackers. “It turns out that was the worst kind of insecurity anyone could imagine.”
McGovern said, “I was in such disbelief that it could possibly happen. These national terrorists were in the House of the People, desecrating the House of the People, destroying the House of the People.
Associated Press editors Dustin Weaver in Washington and Michael Casey in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report. Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama.