Watching rioters breach the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as members of Congress were certifying the presidential election inside was alarming and raised many questions regarding the security of the U.S. Capitol—one of the most important federal buildings in our nation.
The U.S. Capitol Police and city officials had known that the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally would be taking place for weeks. Why was it so easy for rioters to get past security? Why didn’t the Capitol Police have more officers in the building and at the entrances? What must terrorists think of our seat of government’s security?
The Presidential Inauguration is only days away. There must be better security for that event than what we saw on Wednesday.
Political violence is inexcusable, no matter who is committing it, and public safety is crucial to protect individual freedoms and equal protection under the law.
While Black Lives Matter protests have sometimes turned violent, and Antifa has a long history of association with violence, pro-Trump demonstrations have mostly been peaceful in the past. This may have put the Capitol Police in an erroneously relaxed posture. But public safety officials must always be prepared for the possibility that instigators and political opportunists might goad a crowd to violence.
Washington, D.C., has dozens of law enforcement agencies, each with different jurisdictions. But unlike the other agencies that report to the city or the federal executive branch, the Capitol Police is part of the legislative branch. They report to congressional leaders.
The day of the Capitol riot, the Capitol Police was working with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service (a division of the Department of Homeland Security), and the U.S. Park Police (a division Department of the Interior), as it commonly does to make our public spaces secure, accessible, and protect the process of democracy.
Now-resigned Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund stated Thursday that the Capitol attack was unlike anything he had ever experienced in his 30 years of law enforcement in Washington. Rioters attacked Capitol Police officers and other uniformed law enforcement officers with metal pipes, chemical irritants, and other weapons.
Sund stated, “They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage.” More than 50 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers sustained injuries during the attack on the Capitol.
Several Capitol Police officers were hospitalized with serious injuries, and one officer died, in addition to the Trump supporter shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer.
Law enforcement in Washington, D.C., often have to maintain law and order while allowing Americans to practice their First Amendment rights. In many scenarios, this is a challenging balance to strike.
Sund’s description of the clashes with the Capitol Police sounds familiar because it is. The tactics used in Wednesday’s riot resemble those used in riots that occurred in multiple cities throughout 2020. Law enforcement officers and buildings around the U.S. have been attacked with pipes, rocket-grade fireworks, and other dangerous weapons since May by Antifa and Black Lives Matter criminals.
The difference is the 2020 riots were done in the dark of night and most of the main stream media showed little of the rioters’ violence, downplaying the attacks as “peaceful protests.”
Slowly, information is coming forward that bad actors at prior riots were involved at the Capitol riot as well. Some rioters wore the typical black bloc and helmets, others donned Trump paraphernalia to blend in. At a minimum, Wednesday’s assault was fully informed by the lessons of previous actions.
The rioters watched the tactics and techniques of the Antifa criminals (which included violence, weapons, and destruction), the nearly non-existent legal repercussions meted out by liberal city and state governments (the vast majority of criminals who were arrested were released without charges), as well as the validation they received (such as having streets named for them).
It is critical that the Capitol Police and other law enforcement prepare for the Inauguration and other mass demonstrations where opinions are strongly divided, causing emotions to run high, by using successful enforcement tactics from the 2020 riots. Fortunately, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Capitol Police have started doing so.
During the Capitol riots, additional National Guard units were called in, and Bowser set a curfew and extended her emergency order for 15 days, which will cover the inauguration.
Thursday, at the request of the Capitol Police, Homeland Security installed additional protective fencing around the perimeter of the Capitol grounds, a tactic the department used to protect U.S. courthouses and other federal property in Portland and other cities during the 2020 riots.
It is important that the rioters be fully prosecuted for their crimes. Too many rioters had charges dropped by rogue prosecutors in 2020. Without consequences for violent attacks, the riots have continued. They needed to stop long ago. If a different message had been sent last year, in all likelihood, the tragic events on Wednesday would not have occurred.
It took daylight and death at the U.S. Capitol for many to finally condemn such violence. It is our sincere hope that next time, the Capitol Police will be more prepared.