An Attempted Coup at the United States Capitol? Everything You Need to Know
Updated: Feb 3
Author: K. Xiong
Armed rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol during Congress’s scheduled certification of the 2020 presidential election results required by state and federal law [source, p.7] on Wednesday afternoon. As of Wednesday, January 13, at least 85 arrests have been made. At least five people, including a Capitol Police officer, have died, and dozens more were injured. [source]
A Trump supporter held a noose for the gallows his fellow rioters erected in front of the U.S. Capitol, creating a symbol of execution as a terror tactic. [source]
Pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol dragged a D.C. police officer down the stairs, beating, stomping, and smashing him with an American flag pole. At one point, they even tried to impale the police officer with the U.S. flag pole [source]
Rioters entered the Capitol Building after breaking through various security barriers. Once inside, they attacked journalists and destroyed their equipment, stole various items and furniture, tore up artifacts and gifts from foreign diplomats, and vandalized Congress members’ offices. Capitol police shut down the certification process and began evacuating Congress members. Tear gas and smoke grenades were deployed in the Capitol Rotunda and outside the building.
In an attempt to break into the Capitol, a rioter smashes a Capitol window with a baseball bat as other fellow rioters wearing Trump “Make America Great Again” hats watch. [source]
Pro-Trump rioters destoryed news media’s camera equipment as part of their attack on journalists reporting on their violent attacks of the U.S. Capitol. [source]
A Trump supporter paraded around the U.S. Capitol while flying a Confederate battle flag, a hate symbol for supporting slavery and racism. Even during the Civil War, the closest anyone carrying a Confederate flag ever came to the Capitol was about 6 miles. [source]
The Department of Defense initially declined to send in the National Guard to keep law and order, but later reversed course around 3pm. Online video footage shows Capitol Police opening up security gates for rioters, and taking pictures with them inside the Capitol Building. When asked why they weren’t expelling the rioters from the building, a police officer said, “We’ve just got to let them do their thing now.” [source] In contrast, DC police used tear gas and batons to clear away peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors gathered legally in a public park last June. [source]
Some police officers took pictures with the pro-Trump rioters as they stormed the Capitol Building. Another officer put on a MAGA hat and acted as a guide for pro-Trump rioters as they ransacked the U.S. Capitol. [source]
Just blocks away from the riots at the Capitol, a pipe bomb was found and dismantled at the Republican National Convention, and the Democratic National Convention was evacuated over a similar bomb threat. A suspected bomb was found in the Capitol building, according to a government official. [source]
A pipe bomb likely used by the rioters was found outside of the Republican National Committee office. (source)
Hundreds of armed rioters swarmed statehouses and other government buildings, including governors’ homes, in at least 20 states (Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, Louisiana, Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, California, Arkansas, Oregon, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, Ohio, Missouri,Montana, North Carolina, and Washington). Most of these riots have erupted into violence. Government officials in at least two states were forced to evacuate. [source] Days later, the FBI found that armed riots were planned by Trump supporters at all 50 state capitols. [source]
Pro-Trump rioters, including a Chinese American rioter, swarm around the Minnesota state capitol last Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the same day the rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol. [source]
These insurrections come in the wake of President Trump’s continued denial of president-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, through social media, direct appeals to his supporters, and political pressure on election officials and his own administration.
Earlier this week, reports emerged of Donald Trump pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to find evidence of voter fraud, of which no credible evidence has been found in any state. His calls to Raffensberger included veiled threats of criminal consequences Raffensberger and his staff might face if they did not cede to Trump’s demands. [source] He also pressured Vice President Mike Pence to refuse certification, falsely claiming that the vice president has the power to “reject fraudulently chosen electors.” However, the Vice President does not have that power. [source]
At a Georgia rally on January 5, the night of the state’s Senate runoffs, Trump continued to appeal to crowds to “fight for” him. Supporting him were Republican senators Kelly Loeffler (GA), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mike Lee (UT), and David Perdue (GA), as well as Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA). [source]
On Twitter, Trump repeatedly encouraged his supporters to swarm D.C. on January 6, including telling them to “be there” and that it “will be wild!” His appeals to his supporters to “get rid of the weak Congress people” continued as late as 1 pm this Wednesday at a “Stop the Steal” rally. [source]
Trump incited the violent rioters to attack the U.S. Capitol according to an analysis by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs. [source]
Under pressure from lawmakers, Trump later appealed to rioters to leave, but did not end his efforts to deny election results. He further called the rioters “very special” and claimed he “knows their pain.” [source] After being temporarily banned from most mainstream social media, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, however, Trump took to Parler, an alternative social media network frequented by and sponsored by far-right users and donors, where he thanked the “patriots” who stormed the Capitol. [source] Trump has since been permanently banned from Twitter due to the “risk of further incitement of violence.” [source]
Mass organizing took place on alternative social media outlets such as Gab and Parler, where rioters posted about which streets to take to circumvent police and what tools to bring to break into buildings. General calls for violence against Congress members and the government as a whole have circulated for months on such platforms with support from far-right conspiracy groups like the Proud Boys and QAnon. [source] Rioters again turned to Gab and Parler to document their forced entry into Congress members’ offices and their hunt for Mike Pence, who had refused to cede to President Trump’s demands to halt the certification. [source] Calls for another series of riots on January 19, the day before Biden’s inauguration, continue to circulate.
As second generation Chinese and Asian Americans, we grew up hearing our parents tell us that they came to America for the opportunities and freedoms afforded by American democracy. Now, it’s unclear if this is the democracy our parents were looking for, and what being in this country means for people like us.