Written with Zachary Mettler
What began as a peaceful protest against election fraud devolved into protesters and rioters breaking into the U.S. Capitol Wednesday evening, resulting in the death of one rioter along with multiple injuries.
Our team at The Daily Citizen was on the ground from 2PM EST until after the 6PM EST curfew that was issued by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and witnessed firsthand much of what occurred outside the Capitol grounds. We brought you live coverage of the day’s events, which you can watch or re-watch on our Facebook page.
The day began with President Trump speaking to his supporters. “We will never concede,” he said, speaking to the crowd that had gathered on the Ellipse to hear him. Nearly everyone donned Make America Great Again gear, emblematic red hats and American or MAGA flags.
On our walk to the Capitol, we passed thousands of supporters milling about the streets of Washington, D.C. We interviewed one man who said the Capitol police had already fired rubber bullets in a failed attempt to control the crowd.
On our way, our crew and everyone in our vicinity received an emergency notification on our phone informing us that a city-wide curfew would be imposed beginning at 6 pm EST.
When our team arrived at the Capitol around 2 pm EST, protesters had already breached multiple rings of physical security barriers around the Capitol. Bike racks had been installed across the perimeter to prevent anyone from getting too close to the building. However, by the time we got to the Capitol, it was nearly impossible to tell where the barriers had been, as most were knocked down or removed entirely.
Many of the protesters were kind and considerate to our team, even though we were a part of the media. We spoke with several groups of individuals who expressed that they had come to Washington to “make history,” and “defend the constitution” because “the election was stolen from President Trump.”
Some of the other chants we heard most often were “Hold the line,” as if the Capitol had truly become a battleground. “Fight for Trump” was another phrase that was shouted repeatedly.
Others said the main reason they were there was to “stop the steal” and to pressure Mike Pence into “doing the right thing” in rejecting the certification of President-Elect Biden as the winning of the 2020 General Election.
In conversations with protesters on the Hill, we heard expressions of frustration and genuine anger that their voices were not being heard. Therefore, many came to Washington to ensure they were. Nearly all were upset with the results of what they see as a “rigged election” and the lack of investigation into possible voter fraud that they believe occurred.
Some in the crowd who were native to other countries where communism and Marxism are the norm, voiced their fears that the United States was now headed in a similar direction and that the slippery slide must be stopped.
Official estimates placed the crowd size between 45,000 to 100,000 protesters. It should be noted that in our interactions with those assembled, the bulk of the group was indeed peaceful, unlike what transpired later in the evening from a smaller, riotous group of the president’s supporters.
Between 2:30-3:30 EST, we learned that a group of protesters had entered the Capitol building illegally. One of those included a woman named Ashli E. Babbitt, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who was shot by U.S. Capitol police after failing to heed warning to stop attempting to enter the House Chamber where members of Congress were sheltering in place.
Rioters also roamed the halls, ransacked senate offices, walked on the Senate Floor and stole a podium from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
Commentators on our live coverage have said that those who were inside the Capitol building were mostly members of Antifa. While we cannot speak to the validity of these comments, we can, however, say that based on conversations with individuals after the break-in who were inside the Capitol building, Trump supporters were among those who illegally entered.
Around 4PM EST, Capitol police regrouped to push back. The fighting words, “Hold the line,” was shouted by numerous protesters as the police began using physical force and tear gas to remove rioters and protesters from the physical exterior of the building. We also learned that the National Guard was being deployed to assist the Capitol police.
This clash between law enforcement and rioters was captured on camera by The Daily Citizen crew.
The tensest moment of our coverage came when we witnessed a group of rioters surround a news crew from the Associated Press, shouting, “fake news.” Fearing for their safety, the AP crew fled the scene, while their broadcast equipment was being destroyed by the mob.
Several individuals approached The Daily Citizen team and announced that we would be beat if they determined that we were “fake news.” Fortunately, no physical violence ensued.
Soon after, a citywide curfew went into effect and a majority of the protestors and rioters dispersed. Several hundred protestors remained on the west lawn of the Capitol under the watchful eye of hundreds of law enforcement and National Guard troops.
For many Americans, including our team from The Daily Citizen, the events of January 6th, 2021 will be hard to forget and process.
Where do we go from here?