Boston Political Review writer Ryan Metz breaks down the January 6 Trump supporter-led Capitol building break-in in Washington, DC.
Only a short time after Congress began its constitutionally-mandated obligation of counting the electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of President Trump’s followers stormed the Capitol. The Pro-Trump mob overtook Capitol security officers, pushed past barricades, and vandalized the very infrastructure the holds up the seed of American government. Photographs circulated of a man stealing the podium from the chamber of the House of Representatives as well as others trashing the office of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Vice President Mike Pence was quickly removed from the premises, and Congressional members were forced to lock down in their respective chambers.
The outbreak of this mob violence also comes the day after the Georgia Senate runoff election, in which Democratic candidates Jon Osssoff and Raphael Warnock both claimed victory. The events of the day began with the rally scheduled weeks in advance by President Trump and his allies, aimed at opposing the results of the 2020 election, named “Stop the Steal”. The rally was intentionally scheduled on the same day Congress was set to do its constitutional duty and certify the Electoral College votes, declaring Joe Biden the legitimate winner. The event, kicking off precisely one hour before the Joint Session of Congress convened, stood in complete opposition to the idea of constitutional duty. President Trump specifically repeated his calls for Vice President Mike Pence to “do the right thing”, pushing him to abuse his legal powers as President of the Senate to reject the election results. He then went on to say that the country’s elections were worse than some third-world nations, further eroding his supporter’s faith in the electoral process.
Once the rally came to end, the rally attendees carried their “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Trump 2020” flags over to the Capitol Hill. Emboldened by Trump’s destabilizing rhetoric, these rioters soon came closer to the actual Capitol Building than any Confederate troops ever did.
The Pro-Trump Mob occupied the Capitol for hours. Some vandalized the door to the House Chamber, forcing law enforcement officers to draw their guns and barricade the entrance. Others took hold of the Senate Chamber. According to press who were still inside the room, one member of the Pro-Trump mob who was able to make his way onto the Senate dais yelled, “Trump won the election”. Another mob member proudly displayed part of a sign broken off from the entrance to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, holding it up as a kind of trophy.
In response to these violent rioters, a grossly overwhelmed Capitol Police called on FBI and the Department of Homeland Security reinforcements. Following a request from Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Army activated the entire D.C. National Guard. The decision to deploy the Guard was approved by Vice President Mike Pence, not President Trump, according to Defense officials. A 6 pm curfew was also imposed by the Mayor Bowser to remove everyone without clearance from the streets until 6 a.m. Congress re-convened Wednesday night to resume their confirmation of the Electoral College results.
Although there have been reports of tear gas fired and a confirmed civilian death from a gunshot wound inside the Capitol, there have been few actual arrests made throughout the day. The police focused more on dispersing the protestors and clearing the area without inciting charges for acts of vandalization, trespassing, and non-compliance.
Leaders across the political spectrum commented on the shocking and slightly surreal events of the day. In a televised address, President-elect Joe Biden firmly called on the mob to “pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward”. He also cited the President’s direct role in the insurrection through his conspiratorial rhetoric, stating: “At their best, the words of a president can inspire. At their worst, they can incite”.
On the other side of aisle, George W. Bush released a statement strongly condemning the rioters’ actions as “sickening” and “heartbreaking”. He went on to say he was “appalled” by the lack of political leadership displayed throughout the incident. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) called out the president explicitly, telling a reporter: “This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection”.
Despite strong statements of condemnation and demands for an immediate halt to the disruptions from Democrats and Republicans alike, the President largely refrained from any such language. Only after Biden’s televised speech and intense pressure from his staffers did Trump post a video to Twitten addressing the situation. In the video, although he encouraged his supporters to go home, he in no way condemned their fractious siege of the Capitol or the D.C. area. Instead, he added fuel to the fire by saying: “We had an election that was stolen from us”. He also seemed to offer his approval of his supporters’ violent behaviour, ending the video by telling protesters: “We love you, you’re very special”.
When the video was first posted, Twitter shut off his access to his account for 12 hours and warned a permanent ban could soon follow. In the last hours of Friday, January 8, his account was removed from the platform. This represents a significant escalation in the ongoing war between President Trump and the social media platform that has routinely flagged his posts for spreading false, misleading, or unverified information.
Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and willful negligence have created consequences that will echo through the hallowed halls of the Capitol for decades. In the twilight of his presidency, the world waits to see if his days in the White House will end with a bang or a whimper.
Further articles written in collaboration with the Boston Political Review can be found on our website.