It may be weeks before we fully understand the fallout from the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol building. The prevailing consensus from conservative talk radio hosts and editors is that this event provided ammunition to Trump’s enemies and gave squishy Republicans an excuse to abandon their objections to the certification of Biden’s electors. They may be true, but based on what I saw, experienced first-hand, I am conflicted on what to say about those who entered the building.
According to the website “wildprotest.com,” the original plan was to gather at the Whitehouse Ellipse from 9am to 12pm, then gather at the North lawn of the Capitol building at 1 pm. As you may well know, not only did it not happen this way, but the aforementioned website went blank. Did they take it down to make it harder for Trump supporters to show that storming the building was never part of the initial plan?
My group boarded a D.C. Metro train at 10:30am. Upon arrival to the next station, I saw three young white men board the train with dark clothes and skeleton face masks. My immediate concern was that these were Antifa thugs who would give us trouble as soon as they saw us get off the train with our signs. As I watched them from the corner of my eye, I noticed that one of them wore a cape with the American Revolution snake “Join or die.” Were these Trump supporters? Something did not seem quite right. As the train approached our destination, other rally participants started to fill our coach and we arrived at the Ellipse with no incident.
The participants at the Ellipse were for the most part in good spirits and remarkably friendly, just as they had been in other “Stop the steal” rallies I attended in D.C. on November 14 and December 12. Most attendees were white, and though most non-whites were Asian, two of the people who complimented me on my poster were African Americans. The main difference that struck me as unusual during this rally (apart from the three young men who boarded the train) was the frequent smell of marijuana.
We were present during much of the President’s speech, but since we could not hear it clearly, we walked to the National Mall in search of a bathroom. We found a public restroom on the mall with two lines of over 50 people. We then proceeded to walk down the Mall towards the Capitol building in search of porta-potties and found one with a line of about 20-30 people. Our wait was only 20 minutes, but it was overflowing, and I felt very bad for the women in our group. During the previous rally there had been many portable toilets on the Mall. This lack of facilities was anticipated because we were advised in one list serve to wear diapers. I had the impression the D.C. mayor wanted to make it less comfortable for us.
As we resumed walking towards the Capitol building, we got caught up in the march. As we approached the building, I saw no evidence of people moving to the North lawn as previously planned. I also noticed that the people first arriving at the building were on average much younger than the group I had left at the Ellipse.
To my great surprise, young people started to climb the stairs of the Capitol stairs and the inauguration bleachers flanking each side of the stairs. Since I was far behind the crowd, it was not clear to me whether or not they had pushed through police barricades in order to get there, but as I neared the building, I saw what appeared to be metal barricades that had been pushed aside as we neared the building.
When we arrived at the Capitol steps, we saw a young man with a bullhorn on top of the highest scaffolding urging participants to move forward. Soon we heard what sounded like ceremonial cannon fire and saw smoke and I smelled tear gas.
I was not aware that anyone had entered the building until someone with an iPhone told me gleefully that Congress had evacuated the chambers and that the vote was delayed. I was shocked, and wondered if she had a point in celebrating what happened.
Up to that moment, I had not witnessed any of the violence involved in pushing through the barricades or entering the building. The only destruction of property I witnessed first-hand was the alleged Antifa infiltrator breaking a window, only to be forcibly pulled away by Trump supporters. Suddenly the three young men I saw earlier on the train with scary masks in front (but pro-America symbols on their backs) made sense to me, as did widespread smell of marijuana.
Around 4 PM I started to leave. As I walked away from the crowd at the Capitol an elderly man asked me my opinion what had just transpired. I told him that I heard the vote had been delayed, but remained undecided as to whether or not this was a good thing. He then proceeded to tell me that a young lady was shot dead while entering the Capitol building and lamented that “God did not want it to happen this way.”
Based on what I saw and read, I have no doubt that dozens and possibly even hundreds of Antifa and/or other provocateurs had infiltrated the rally in order to carry out violent acts and suck impressionable Trump supporters into their antics. None of this violence was justified, but contrast the frustration and conflicted attitude of this Capitol building trespasser with that of the proud BLM rioter. One calls for prayer while the other calls for “reparations.”
Some of the more impulsive Trump supporters fell into a trap that served to scapegoat both the Trump administration and the 99.9% of rally participants who neither condoned nor participated in any of the violence.