A breakdown of events in Washington DC: WPGU employee on scene as events unfold

By Chieh Hsu

On Wednesday, hundreds of insurrectionists assailed the United States Capitol building as members of Congress counted the electoral votes to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. 

Barrett Wynn, a WPGU News member, was in D.C. yesterday as the events unfolded. 

“You could see smoke drifting from the steps of the capitol building,” Wynn said. 

First, let’s break down the context leading up to yesterday’s chaos: 

Prior to Wednesday, Washington D.C. Police had been tracking incoming buses to D.C. and became aware that the scheduled Trump rally would involve a stadium-sized crowd. 

The Department of Defense had deployed 340 National Guard members as requested by D.C. officials, under the condition that they would not bear firearms. 

The Capitol Police amassed 2,000 officers but was short of staff on Wednesday as some members were quarantined because of COVID-19. Still, the Capitol Police assured the D.C. Police that they were well-equipped. The Capitol Police’s annual budget amounts to $460 million.

Ordinarily, the D.C. Police do not have the authority to enter the Capitol building. If an emergency were to occur, the Capitol Police would first have to request the D.C. Police’s reinforcement before they are able to take charge of the situation. 

Here’s the progression of events at the Capitol building that unfolded on Wednesday: 

At 10 a.m., in the 52-acre park south of the White House, otherwise known as the Ellipse, thousands of Trump supporters gathered, most of whom clustered and not wearing face masks. 

At noon, Trump joined the rally.

“Fight for Trump!” the crowd chanted.

“We will never give up,” Trump said. “We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there is theft involved…We’re gonna walk down to the Capitol!”

Shortly after, the crowd marched 1.6 miles from the Ellipse to the Capitol, unchallenged. 

At 1 p.m., the mob toppled barricades in front of the Capitol building and pushed past Capitol Police officers. 

Once they passed the barricades, the insurrectionists surrounded the Capitol and banged on doors and windows in an attempt to find entrances to the building.

Shortly after 2 p.m., the crowd breached a door on the east side of the Capitol. 

Acknowledging the breach, Capitol Police escorted members of the Congress into the Chamber of the House and put up a lockdown.

In one instance, a video captured a Black police officer isolated and chased by dozens of insurrectionists. As he retreated, the crowd entered the second floor of the building. 

As the crowd broke a window in an attempt to enter the Chamber of the House, Secret Service officers demanded the mob to back down and later fired shots. A female insurrectionist was shot.

Other insurrectionists who were also in the building began defacing offices of Congressmen and Congresswomen. Photos captured a man sitting on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chair, with his legs on her desk and several framed photos removed from the wall. Some insurrectionists also entered the Senate Chamber. Among them was a man dressed as a Viking who posed in the center of the construct.

After the shooting, the Capitol Police requested assistance from the D.C. Police.

At 3 p.m., the emergency unit carried the woman who was shot by members of the Secret Service to an ambulance. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) ordered 200 State Troopers and National Guard to the Capitol.

The crowd began to disperse as D.C. Police joined the line of defense. 

Amidst the chaos, somebody erected mock gallows on the lawn across the reflecting pool from the Capitol building, and there were a number of pro-Trump signs attached to the sides.

“There were multiple deployments of tear gas,” an anonymous documentary maker at the scene said. “The Proud Boys and other people pushed through the gates, they went up the stairs and there was tear gas deployed. They pushed forward to where that tunnel is. More tear gas, flashbangs, mace … (the D.C. police) had to use every non-lethal force they could. The police, in context, were massively restrained.”

At 6 p.m., a curfew that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared earlier in the day began taking effect. As D.C. Police cleared the streets, the afternoon of chaos ended.

The Aftermath:

After the incident, members of the Congress returned to the Chamber to continue counting the ballots, confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. 

D.C. Police discovered two pipe bombs, one outside of the Republican National Committee and one outside of the Democratic National Committee. They also recovered a cooler that contained a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds. 

Twitter and Facebook have suspended Trump’s account over baseless claims and conspiracy theories. 

A number of officials in the executive branch have resigned, largely due to the disappointment of the President inciting a riot on Capitol grounds. Among them are Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who had been working as special envoy to Northern Irland, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Stephanie Grisham, Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews and White House Social Secretary Anna Niceta.

Among the thousands of insurrectionists who breached the barricade in front of the capitol, 52 were arrested.

The Capitol Police did not fire shots. It wasn’t until the insurrectionists reached the Chamber of the House that the Secret Service fired.

In comparison, in 2013, Capitol Police and Secret Service personnel opened fire on a car that rammed a security barricade. The driver was killed at the scene. 

Meanwhile on Wednesday in Georgia, Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) were elected as senators, securing both the House and the Senate for Biden’s administration. Warnock is the first Black senator elected in the state. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls for the resignation of Capitol Police Chief and urges Vice President Mike Pence to enact the 25th amendment to remove President Trump from office.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a 15-day curfew to cover the Inauguration day, which is on Jan. 20.

Check back with The Daily Illini for more updates.

[email protected]