These are the rioters who stormed US Capitol

These are the rioters who stormed US Capitol

January 8, 2021

Washington: There were infamous white nationalists and noted conspiracy theorists who have spread dark visions of paedophile Satanists running the country. Others were more anonymous, people who had journeyed from Indiana and South Carolina to heed President Donald Trump's call to show their support. One person, a West Virginia lawmaker, had only been elected to office in November.

Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol,Credit:AP

All of them converged Wednesday on the grounds of the US Capitol, where hundreds of rioters crashed through barricades, climbed through windows and walked through doors, wandering around the hallways with a sense of gleeful desecration, because, for a few breathtaking hours, they believed that they had displaced the very elites they said they hated.

"We wanted to show these politicians that it's us who's in charge, not them," said a construction worker from Indianapolis, who is 40 and identified himself only as Aaron. He declined to give his last name, saying, "I'm not that dumb."

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the West wall of the Capitol building.Credit:AP

Those who stormed the Capitol were just one slice of the thousands of Trump supporters who had descended on Washington to protest the certification of Joe Biden's victory in November over Trump. Their breach came with a confused and frenzied energy, fuelled by the words of Trump just minutes before and the fervour of the mob standing behind them.

Washington's Metropolitan Police Department said it had made no additional arrests Thursday connected to the rioting, during which one woman was fatally shot by the Capitol Police and a Capitol Police officer suffered injuries from which he later died.

The officer, Brian Sicknick, died at about 9.30pm Thursday, the Capitol Police said in a statement. He had been with the agency since 2008.

Sicknick was responding to the riots Wednesday and "was injured while physically engaging with protesters," the agency's statement said. He later collapsed after returning to his division office and was taken to the hospital.

News outlets had prematurely reported on his death earlier in the day while he was apparently still on life support.

A protester is seen hanging from the balcony in the Senate Chamber.Credit:Getty

Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police detained 68 people, plus the 14 picked up by the Capitol Police during the unrest. Dozens more people were still being sought by federal authorities. Their number included a 60-year-old gun rights activist from Arkansas who was pictured sitting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, men in tactical gear taking selfies in the Rotunda and a woman in the House chamber, carrying a QAnon-inspired sign about children.

Some of those who had also surged forward in the crowd seemed to show a bewildered wonder at what they were seeing in front of them. A few remarked on the opulence of the Capitol building and offices, a quality that seemed to confirm their suspicions about the corruption of Washington.

"Yeah look at all this fancy furniture they have," said a man in a winter parka and red hat, standing on the west side of the Capitol and peering through the glass at empty desks, computer screens and ergonomic chairs. Several people banged on the windows with their fists, including one man who shouted, "Put the coffee on!" One man hit his head, not seeing the outer layer of glass was there, it was so clean.

As people rushed inside, there was a strange mix of confusion and excitement, and the almost complete lack of police presence in the beginning amplified the feeling of lawlessness. They gawked at a place of wealth and beauty, adorned with art and marble, a domain of the powerful, and for a short while Wednesday afternoon, the rioters were in control. For once, they felt, they could not be ignored.

A supporter of US President Donald Trump sits inside the office of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.Credit:

Aaron, the construction worker from Indianapolis, and his two friends had heard people talking about going to Pelosi's office. So once inside they decided to instead find Senator Chuck Schumer's office. Both are Democrats.

"We wanted to have a few words" with Schumer, he said. "He's probably the most corrupt guy up here. You don't hear too much about him. But he's slimy. You can just see it."

But they could not find Schumer's office. He said they asked a Capitol Police officer, who tried to direct them. But they appeared to have gotten nowhere near the minority's leader's office. They ended up smoking a few cigarettes inside the building —"We can smoke in our house," Aaron said — and one of his friends, who would not give his name, joked that he had gone to the bathroom and not flushed.

Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber.Credit:AP

A woman in a coat sat on the couch in a small room with a blue carpet and watched as a man ripped a scroll with Chinese lettering hanging on the wall.

"We don't want Chinese bullshit," the woman said.

Nearby, six men sat at a large wooden desk. A lamp with a white shade was knocked over and broken. Someone was smoking pot. "This is the pot room!" a young man said.

Demonstrators attempt to breach the US Capitol after they earlier stormed the building Credit:Bloomberg

In the Crypt, people walked around taking photographs of the statues and themselves with their phones. One man had a selfie stick, like a tourist in a foreign land. A woman in baggy jeans and a blue puffer jacket was shouting chants into a megaphone, while a man in a black T-shirt that read "Not Today Liberal" ran around the central columns in what looked like a frenetic victory lap.

As authorities try to identify those in the mob, some will be less hard to pin down than others. The group included some well-known figures from the conspiratorial right, including Jake Angeli, who has pushed the false QAnon claims that Trump was elected to save the US from deep-state bureaucrats and prominent Democrats who worship Satan and abuse children. He was pictured sitting in Congress in a viking helmet and furs. Angeli, who is known as the "Q Shaman," has been a fixture in the pro-Trump protests in Arizona since the election, and there are indications that he and other right-wing activists had planned to spark a confrontation with authorities before Wednesday's rally.

There were also leaders from the Proud Boys, a far-right group whose participants have espoused misogynistic and anti-immigrant views, such as Nick Ochs, a failed Hawaii state legislature candidate and member of a collective called "Murder the Media." Chris Hood and members of his National Socialist Club, a neo-Nazi group, posted photos on Telegram from outside the Capitol on Wednesday. And the Three Percenters, a far-right armed group, were seen gathered in Washington's Freedom Plaza on Tuesday night, most wearing helmets and Kevlar vests adorned with the group's symbol, a Roman numeral three.

Rioters walk through the doors of the US Capitol building as Congress was meeting to certify the election results.Credit:Bloomberg

The mob came from the broader crowd, tens of thousands of Trump's most loyal supporters, many of whom had driven through the night, or taken buses with friends and neighbours, to watch him speak and be part of a day that many hoped would finally hold some answers to what had been months of false claims that the election had been stolen. A number of people interviewed said they had never been to Washington before.

In interviews Wednesday, protesters in the broader crowd expressed a sense that something would happen — something that was bigger than they were. What exactly it would be no one could say. Before the Capitol was stormed, some hinted darkly about violence and the looming threat of civil war. But when pressed for what that might mean, they tended to demur, saying simply that, if called, they would serve their side in a conflict.

"There's been lots of people talking about this day coming for a long time," said Brian Sachtleben, 40, an asphalt truck driver from a small town near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who was looking at the sea of people spreading from the Washington Monument to the Ellipse, marveling at the numbers, shortly before Trump began to speak.

When asked what he thought might happen, he said: "I don't know. I really don't know."

He referred cryptically to the Thomas Jefferson quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Then he added: "I don't think anything is going to be back to normal ever again."

He left town before the violence began.

When those who entered the Capitol later re-emerged after their rampage, many were welcomed like returning heroes.

DC National Guard on the night of January 6, after the Capitol had been secured and a curfew put into force.Credit:AP

"Yeah, we stopped the vote!" screamed a man in a navy-blue zippered jacket, as he emerged, hands held high, from a tall yellow wooden door, as people outside whooped and cheered. "Murder the media" was scrawled in black marker across the other part of the double door.

Many said they would not have tried to go in, but they sympathised with those who had.

"I'm not going in there, but, yeah, I'm kind of OK with it," said Lisa Todd, 56, a high school teacher from Raleigh, North Carolina. She was standing with three friends, all fellow teachers.

Others expressed some regret.

Storming the Capitol was "probably not the best thing to do," said Eric Dark, 43, a truck driver from Braman, Oklahoma, who was tear-gassed when he got to the top of the steps to the building but never made it inside.

He had been standing with Brian Hobbs, mayor of Newkirk, Oklahoma, near the top of the steps on the western side of the building around 4.30pm when officers in riot gear started moving to clear out the thousands of people who had gathered.

It could have been a lot worse, he said.

"We had enough people; we could have tore that building down brick by brick," he said.

New York Times

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