Right-wing terrorists planned the attack on the Capitol for weeks. Federal authorities were unprepared. Will they be ready the next time?
Despite clear evidence that right-wing extremists spent weeks planning what one called an “epic” event, law enforcement agencies at the Capitol were unprepared and outmanned and allowed the first real attack on the building in more than 200 years.
“The Capitol is our goal. Everything else is a distraction. Every corrupt member of Congress locking in one room and surrounded by real Americans is an opportunity that will never present itself again,” one Trump supporter wrote on the right-wing server, TheDonald.
Comments on the post encourage supporters to “mind the exits” and reference Hitler’s Final Solution, which was initially used by Nazi leaders to refer to the mass murder of Jewish people in Europe.
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As the rioters forced their way inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6, lawmakers who were gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win were forced to evacuate or take shelter behind locked doors. The armed rioters appeared to have free reign of restricted areas in the building.
Quickly, it became clear that something had gone horribly wrong in the days leading up to the attack.
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser encouraged residents to stay home, reiterated protest guidelines, and prepped local police to control traffic. Unfortunately, local and federal law enforcement agencies like DC Metro Police, Capitol Police, and the Pentagon did not communicate well. Even in the days since the insurrection, the agencies have not agreed how they should have made certain decisions.
For instance, Bowser’s office said that defense officials at the Pentagon determined the number of officers deployed to the Capitol, but when asked for comment by the New York Times, the Pentagon said they made personnel decisions based on specific requests from local officials.
There is also a clear fracture between the Trump administration and local law enforcement. Weighing on the minds of local police departments like DC’s Metro Police was the Trump Administration’s heavy-handed response to largely peaceful protests over the summer against police brutality and racial injustice. Trump sent federal agents and tactical teams to Portland, Oreg., Washington, DC, and Chicago, Ill., among others, against the wishes of local leaders.
In June, the Trump administration forcefully cleared protestors with tear gas outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown DC seemingly for Trump to take a photo with a Bible in front of the church.
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The day before the Capitol Building attack, Bowser sent a letter to top federal law enforcement officials urging against excessive force. She cited the aggressive response to lawful protests last summer.
According to the New York Times, federal agencies, from the Justice Department to the FBI, all claimed that they would keep everything under control. The outnumbered Capitol Police tried barricades and pepper spray to keep the mob out, but both failed.
“What we saw is racism, violence, and firearms all coming together,” said Josh Horwitz in a previous interview with COURIER. Horwitz serves as the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and is an expert on extremist insurrectionist ideology. “We’ve seen force used to clear what is now Black Lives Matter Plaza, we’ve seen flashbangs and all sorts of force, and here we have the presence of law enforcement, but for some reason, they decided not to use any force.”
Horwitz noted that he supports nonviolent crowd-control methods, but the clear issue is that there weren’t enough law enforcement officers present at the attack. He also contrasted the methods used against the pro-Trump terrorists with those used against protesters in June at Lafayette Square.
“I think these people are being treated very differently than what we saw when Trump decided to walk to the church,” he said.
Since last Wednesday, there have been more indications online that the unrest will continue in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration as Trump supporters vow to return to DC.