The Storming of the United States Capitol
By Kathleen Zapata '24
(Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo: Getty Images)
The attack on the U.S. Capitol was one of the most foreseeable calamities cultivated and stoked by former president Donald Trump. Loyalists of the former president had called January 6 a “revolution,” their day of retribution, reserving the day to “save America” from the “radical left Democrats.” Following the definitive win of President Joe Biden on November 7, former president Trump spoon-fed his supporters a baneful diet made up of conspiracy theories regarding a “stolen election.” Though these claims have been exhausted and thoroughly debunked, this did not stop allies of the former president from filing 60+ voting-related cases and failing on them all.
In the morning of the January 6 event, thousands of supporters gathered on the south side of the White House decked out in an array of Trump merchandise. For 70 minutes, the former President went at it: attacking the media and Democrats, all while continually sustaining the unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election. Telling his supporters, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol... because you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” he caused an uproar in the crowd.
A rabid mob then paraded down the street to the Capitol with the intentions of delaying the democratic process of the Electoral College by way of intimidation and insurgency. The protests were planned to clash with Congress’s meeting to certify Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. A pandemonium made up of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, QAnon believers, and people linked with the far-right vandalized cars, pillaged media equipment, and surged through the few Capitol police officers who were present.
The rioters violently forced their way into the Capitol, stopping momentarily for selfies and livestreaming the event on social media sites such as Facebook and Parler. They smashed through windows and pushed through police lines. Some climbed up the scaffolding to replace American flags with Trump flags, his supporters vandalizing the interior and ransacking the building. One was pictured taking Nancy Pelosi’s podium—later briefly posting it on eBay.
It was then the rioters turned into terrorists; for the next hours they overran the halls of the government and forced Congress into lockdown. They toyed through confidential files and combed the desks of lawmakers in search for evidence of a “stolen election.” They synthesized chants of “TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!” together in a frenzied mush.
Twitter served as the central communication channel between the besieged and the outside. Officials tweeting out assuring memos of safety while others tweeted pictures of the chaos happening inside. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) tweeted out, “I’m currently sheltering in place. The Capitol building has been breached and both chambers are locked down. This is the chaos and lawlessness @realDonaldTrump has created.”
One photographer captured a moment when an officer, Eugene Goodman, managed to prevent several assassinations by luring an angry mob away from the unsecured chambers.
Despite promising to walk alongside them, the former president went silent throughout the whole ordeal. Members from both branches of Congress desperately urged President Trump to get ahold of the situation. He later released a video, still pushing his narrative of stolen election: “We had an election stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it… But you have to go home now.” His message came out after the authorities had removed almost all of the rioters from the Capitol, barely helping the situation.
Subsequently, Congress felt the imperative to resume the certification of Joe Biden after the lawless bid to overthrow the government. On January 7, Congress affirmed Joe Biden’s win just before dawn.
Several of the former president's most adherent devotees broke with him. Former Vice President Mike Pence mobilized the National Guard after Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate. Trump had previously called on Pence (though Pence was powerless to do so) to overturn the election results. Senator Mitch McConnell, formerly the Majority Leader, has condemned the event: “They tried to disrupt our democracy. They failed.”
Both parties condemned the failed insurrection and the people that partook in the event. Several Cabinet members of the Trump administration quit before the end of his term, presumptively to save their political careers. On January 13, former president Trump was impeached for the second time by the House of Representatives with a staggering bipartisan coalescence. This was the first time in history a U.S. President has been impeached twice. His trial in the Senate began on February 9.
The appalling spectacle of violence was broadcast to the world as they watched a seditious attack on democracy while elected lawmakers scurried to flee for their lives inside, as Trump flags festooned around the Capitol. The democracy that America has proudly displayed for over 200 years had almost met its end.
This violent insurrection has further ratified the idea that words and actions have consequences. January 6 will be a day blemished with the rattling attempt of a dictatorship/tyranny, but nonetheless, democracy prevailed once again. What happened on that Wednesday was the pinnacle of corruption that has culminated over the last four years: a former president’s last pursuit to retain a position that he did not win. Because of this, and several other considerable offenses, Donald Trump’s presidency will forever live in infamy.