I was among Trump supporters at the Ellipse, the park where Trump’s Save America March rally was underway, when the president told his supporters to head to the Capitol. They didn’t wait. Around 1:30 p.m., before he finished his speech, much of his rally peeled away and began its march to where Congress was already in session to certify the Electoral College vote. I went too and followed the crowd into the Capitol.
You can read my account of what happened here, but below, here is the story in photos and videos I took, from the speech to inside the Capitol to back outside, where rioters were stunned when the police actually started to shut them down.
I spoke to a lot of people at the rally. Most really believed that the Democrats and the amorphous “swamp” had changed the votes. “I believe Donald Trump won. I believe Warnock lost. I believe all the Republicans won. We’ve all got to demand that these voting machines be destroyed. They’re evil,” one rallygoer told me. They had been planning a “revolution” for weeks. This was the call to action they’d been waiting for.
By 2:30 p.m., I paced along with the Trump march on the Capitol. Just a few blocks away from the Ellipse, six people parked at Black Lives Matter Plaza poked at the huge crowd, flipping them off and singing along to YG’s infamous song “FDT.” One Trump supporter pleaded to the police to arrest them. They ignored her.
The protesters marched past Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, which was heavily fortified with police.
When I arrived to the Capitol, rumors were swirling among Trump’s marchers that their comrades had breached the building and forced the certification of the Electoral College to halt. They cheered the news, many picking up the pace, rushing up the famous staircase for their opportunity to make their way inside.
Many of the protesters came dressed for a riot, some with battle fatigues, Kevlar vests, and gas masks.
It took me less than 10 minutes to get across the Capitol grounds, up the stairs, and to the door. Here, the protest had descended into a full-blown riot. Ill-equipped and outnumbered, Capitol Police officers tried to hold rioters back by forcing the door shut. They had pepper spray but used it sparingly. The police were easily overwhelmed by the MAGA rioters who pried the door open and forced themselves in.
Once inside, the rioters weren’t sure what to do. There was confusion right away, and some just stood with their arms up and claimed victory. Some shouted “Don’t vandalize!” while others shouted “Tear it down!” Most just took pictures and selfies.
The rioters made themselves comfortable. One woman sat on a couch inside someone’s office, but that didn’t stop her from joining in on the “Stop the Steal” chant heard from the hallway.
Some rooms had the distinct smell of marijuana.
After hours of rioters moving in and around the Capitol freely, the police and National Guard together used pepper spray and percussion grenades to push the rioters back. There were short skirmishes of violence, but police remained restrained, only sporadically using gas to push rioters back.
By 5:30 p.m., police finally began to aggressively push people out and secure the Capitol. Once pushed back, the rioters shouted “traitors!” and “fuck the blue,” flipping their popular chant “back the blue.” They seemed genuinely hurt. I left to the sound of more percussion grenades.