“Be there, will be wild.”
On January 6, several thousands of protestors gathered at Freedom Plaza for the third major protest in D.C. since President Trump lost to Joe Biden in the 2020 election. And with raging fire, fueled by a Twitter invitation from Trump, the crowd was, to say the very least, wild.
Protestors gathered as early as sunrise to march in opposition of the election results, claiming that Trump had won the election, and massive voter fraud infringed on the results – a false claim spread by the loser of the election. Trump announced he would speak in front of his supporters at 11 a.m. Arriving at 12 p.m, he stepped onto the stage to address his crowd as thousands of people cheered, waving their “Trump 2020 – Keep America Great” signs, American and Blue Lives Matter flags, and other banners with symbols for causes including anti-socialism. Trump began his speech by asking the reporters, or what he called the “fake news media,” to turn their cameras and show how many people were gathered before him.
Meanwhile, Congress gathered inside The Capitol to certify the electoral college results. Several Republicans, including Senators Josh Hawley (Mo) and Ted Cruz (Tx), had previously stated that they planned to object to the results, insisting that either Trump won or the ballots needed to be counted again- in Trump’s words, by “people that want to find answers. Not people that don’t want to find answers.” Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) urged his caucus to accept the election results as they had been audited several times, many continued to push for an overturn.
As Trump continued speaking, his crowd became more riled up. “You have to show strength, you have to be strong,” he said. “Never give up… never concede,” he said. “We’re going to the Capitol. We’re going to try and give… [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” he said.
Before he even finished speaking, a horde of protestors began marching down to the Capitol. Breaking down the barricades at the West Side, they stormed towards the building. Not long after, thousands more followed their lead. A series of events followed, and as Biden later condemned on national television, it was “unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times.” Protestors climbed the walls of the northwest side of the Capitol, used scaffolding to access the second floor, and banged on the windows chanting, “let us in!” Police made very weak attempts to control the mob, and some were even caught standing back as the rioters streamed inside Capitol grounds.
A little after 2:10 p.m, a man used a riot shield to break through a window on the first floor of the south side of the building, jumping inside with a few other protestors. Police presume that they opened several other doors for their comrades to trespass as well.
Back in the Senate and the House, proceedings stopped, and all of their members were taken to a secret location for safety. All 1,100 D.C. National Guard members were activated, and Governor Muriel Bowser (D) issued a statewide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning.
Rioters stormed the Capitol, vandalizing offices, smashing windows, and engaging in physical confrontations with law enforcement. A few of them broke down doors to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Ca) private office, writing “WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN” on her work papers, while others broke into the Chamber and sat in the very seat that Vice President Mike Pence had resided in just an hour before.
After hopping through a window, a 35-year-old woman named Ashli Babbitt led a large group into the Speaker’s Lobby where a police officer stood on a higher stairwell with his gun pointing forwards. After ordering them to stop, he fired his gun into the group, striking Babbitt in the shoulder. She collapsed to the ground as someone yelled that “they shot a girl!” Paramedics came soon after and took her away in an ambulance. She passed later that night.
Later on, when more law enforcement arrived at 3:30 p.m, Trump supporters called them “traitors” and asked, “where’s your oath?”
After being called out by numerous political leaders for not acting to bring an end to the violence, Trump shared a video at 4:17 p.m, telling his supporters to “go home,” while continuing to assert false claims that he won the election.
At around 8 p.m, after police had cleared out the mob from inside and around the Capitol, FBI agents in riot gear escorted lawmakers back to work.
Historians stated that this was the first mob attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812, when the British set fire to the sacred building in 1814.
“We weren’t violent before, but we are now,” a reporter heard a Trump supporter say into his phone. “There’s no going back.”