Almost a week after supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol, new videos were revealing the level of violence that left lawmakers cowering inside and police howling for backup.
The footage on social media show a police officer dragged out and beaten on the ground; protesters chanting to “hang” US Vice President Mike Pence; and a pack of demonstrators appearing to search for officials inside the building.
The videos, which have steadily flowed onto the Internet since the Wednesday last week’s riot, show Trump’s supporters as much more aggressive and violent than the footage seen that day.
“We came close to half of the House [of Representatives] nearly dying on Wednesday,” said US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, calling it an “insurrection against the United States.”
Five people did die on Capitol Hill that day — a police officer reportedly hit in the head with a fire extinguisher; a protester shot inside the building by police as she tried to break down a door; and three other protesters of “medical emergencies.”
Another Capitol Police officer reportedly killed himself four days after the attack. It is unknown if the two events were linked.
Early videos showed a boisterous crowd press their way, without particular coordination, past police to barge into the Capitol, but the latest footage shows organized groups among the larger mob, many wearing military assault-style uniforms, attacking outnumbered police officers with flagpoles, batons, hockey sticks and chemical sprays. One person attacked the officers with a crutch.
In another video, an officer cries out in pain as he is crushed between two swinging doors, as protesters push in from one side and police push back. A protester tries to wrench off the officer’s gas mask.
With many of the protesters known to belong to armed militia groups, and after two pipe bombs were discovered at nearby buildings, police and lawmakers saw a serious threat.
“I have talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq and say that this was scarier to them than their time in combat,” Washington Police Chief Robert Contee said.
One target of the crowd’s ire was Pence, who had rejected Trump’s pressure to halt proceedings in Congress that would confirm US president-elect Joe Biden as the winner of last year’s election.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” Trump wrote on Twitter as the protesters descended on the Capitol.
The buildings were ordered to lock down, and as the vice president was whisked to secret, secure premises inside the Congress complex, outside, a video shows the crowd chanting: “Hang Mike Pence.”
Inside, a video shows men decked out in combat gear carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs, suggesting that they hoped to seize elected officials.
Lawmakers took cover.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi described how they barricaded doors, turned off lights and hid under tables for two-and-a-half hours before the crowd was brought under control.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said that the threat was clear from the beginning.
“As soon as they hit the fence line, the fight was on,” Sund told the Washington Post. “They came with riot helmets, gas masks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks, climbing gear ... explosives, metal pipes, baseball bats. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years of events in Washington.”
Sund, who resigned over the stunning failure to defend the building, said that two days earlier he had urged the mobilization of the National Guard to protect the Capitol, but he was told by the House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving that the appearance of uniformed troops on the steps of the building would look bad.
On the day of the attack, Sund said that the Pentagon was reluctant to deploy the National Guard.
Half an hour after the protesters arrived, he asked for reinforcements, but he was again told that it would not look good.
The National Guard troops were finally mobilized, but only arrived after the fighting had died down and Washington police had secured the building.
“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” former US president George W. Bush said.
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