The previously unimaginable scenes of rioters cavorting about the House and Senate chambers, and even the speaker’s office, at the U.S. Capitol have raised one major question: Where were the U.S. Capitol Police?
Answers to the question were few and far between. But there were clues to be gleaned from social media.
One potentially illuminating video taken from the steps of the Capitol facing the National Mall showed a mass of protesters pressing a thin police line. Then a loud pop is heard. A social-media post indicated that the protesters had used a chemical irritant to break through police lines.
The large crowd had walked down the Mall after listening to President Donald Trump speak outside the White House.
Ari Natter, a reporter for Bloomberg who was an eyewitness to the events on the west side of the Capitol, said it was “bedlam,” with “a huge mob, thousands of people pressing against the police barricade.”
There were violent skirmishes with members of the mob using flagpoles to assault outnumbered police, who countered with batons, he said. Both sides seemed to use mace, he said. “Eventually the police had to retreat, and that is how people got in,” Natter said, in an interview on Bloomberg Radio.
“It was kind of amazing to me,” he said. “The police did seem unprepared.”
Another video from Joshua Potash appeared to show police giving up on a barricade, with rioters rushing in through a widening aperture.
Inside the Capitol, officers were apparently caught flat-footed. There is a lengthy video of a lone policeman attempting, unsuccessfully, to stem the tide of protesters. He told by the intruders, “This is our America.”
By the time the officer had retreated to where he could find allies, the mob was flowing freely through the building.
In the chaos, one unidentified woman, said to be a protester, was shot and killed, according to several reports, quoting law-enforcement officials.
Robert Gordon, a professor of criminology and an expert on policing at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, who watched the events unfold on television, said it was clear the Capitol police were “significantly short-handed on the ground.”
“Obviously there was a great deal of restraint being applied on the part of police. They seemed to be subject to provocations of different kinds,” he added.
A reporter for ITV news posted a remarkable video as he accompanied protestors into the Capitol.
As the afternoon wore on, many protesters drifted away and more and more police arrived, followed by buses of National Guard troops.
As night fell, police secured the perimeter of the Capitol, and the House sergeant-at-arms said the building was secure.
National Guardsmen were later seen arriving in front of the Capitol as a 6 p.m. curfew in the city was coming into effect.
Several lawmakers vowed to continue with the congressional certification of Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill said in an MSNBC appearance that lawmakers from both parties with whom she’d spoken expected to return to the task Wednesday evening with the hope of completing it by morning.