Crowd building at Washington Monument
Image courtesy Dean Weingarten
On 5 January, 2021, the flight to DC on American Airlines 2222 was full. There were quite a few Trump supporters on board. They were a little boisterous, with a few chants of “Four More Years”.
On 6 January, people made there way to the Metro station to travel into DC for the rally/protest/march. The Mall was relatively clear. As we approached the West end of the mall, the crowd could be heard, about 0830 local. It was already a large crowd stretching from the Washington monument toward the White House. Several speakers gave presentations. The audio system was inadequate. Little could be understood.
Most of the people were middle class and middle aged. There were young and old, even a few people in wheelchairs and walkers. There were many women present, but few children. People were there to support President Trump, to protest four years of lies by the Media, censorship by the Tech Oligarchs, and a deeply flawed election. One participant told me:
“He supported us for four years. At least we could come when he asked us to.”
In spite of the common grievances, there seemed to be little organization or leadership. There were a few groups that showed cohesion, but most were simply responding to a request to show up. This protest was the largest, most organic, nearly spontaneous one I have seen of many.
At the other end of the Mall, at the Capitol, there were a couple of smaller events on the East side. There were only a couple of thousand at the Capitol compared to many more at the west end of the Mall.
As the morning continued, streams of people continued to come unto the Mall and move toward the Washington Monument.
I moved toward the Capitol. The Capitol Police Board, according to signs, had placed fencing around the Capitol to keep people at a significant distance. The fencing was light and poorly secured.
Simple barriers on Mall side of Capitol, two Capitol Police guard West side of Capitol
Large groups of people started to approach the Capitol as the rally at the West end of the Mall became a protest march to the Capitol.
The crowds grew and grew. The barriers were flimsy and ineffective. Some people started crossing them to get closer. Others followed. The ones in front shouted encouragement. A mass of people flowed to the Mall side of the capitol.
Hundreds of thousands more were coming behind them.
Crowd building at Mall side of Capitol
I could not detect any real leadership or strategy. Masses kept coming. People were frustrated. There was a little pulling on barricades at the choke point, the scaffolding where there appeared to be an entryway to the Capitol. I caught a whiff of pepper spray from the intersection of the crowd and Capitol Police, near the scaffolding, and moved upwind to the North of the crowd. What appeared to be several commercial grade fireworks were thrown at the police.
As the crowd was frustrated on the Mall side, more people kept coming up and started drifting around to the North side. More barriers came down.
The crowds coming from the west met the existing crowds on the east side of the Capitol, with the Supreme Court in the background to the east.
The crowds kept growing and pushing at barriers. They kept getting closer and closer to the Capitol.
People wanted to make a statement. They chanted: This is our house!
Crowd building on east side, right up to the doors.
Finally, they were right up to the doors in several places. Later, a person who claimed to have been through the building said the Mall side was breeched first.
The Congress is reported to have adjourned for reasons of safety. One person is reported to have been shot and killed. It is unclear as to the circumstances. A person at the protest told me it was a young woman with a Trump flag who had been shot.
Not long after, President Trump is said to have asked people to leave the Capitol steps and go home, to restore peace.
It is unclear what this means for the Republic and the future of self government.
The remarkable thing about this protest were the participants. Middle aged and middle class men and women. Many said the frustrations had been building for a long time, that they had been quiet too long.
There was no plan beyond getting into the Capitol and then leaving. On the way back, in the Metro, a protestor was heard saying: We made our point. We had to do something. They have to know it is our country.
The reactions between the Capitol Police and the crowd was largely civil.
More detailed reports will follow.
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