A Retrospective on the Capitol Riots

Victoria Benavides and Ben Williams

Photo of the Capitol Riot from 11th Hour

The months prior to January 6th 2021 were filled with tension- a tension that stemmed from the election. When Joe Biden was first announced the winner of the 2021 presidential election in a November, claims of a fraudulent election from Donald Trump intensified. Mail-in ballots were used more in this election because of COVID-19. Many feared going to voting places due to large crowds and thus opted for mail-in ballots. Donald Trump then claimed that the Democrats took advantage of mail-in ballots to cast hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes for Biden. Trump and his supporters believed that if the votes were to be “properly” or “fairly” counted, Trump would’ve won “by a landslide”. On January 6th, in the early afternoon, Trump held a rally near the Capitol building, where the electoral votes (and Biden’s victory) were being certified. The crowd was full of people who felt as if the election was stolen from them.

Trump was quoted for saying “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women, we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.” Many believe it was remarks like this that inspired some of the rally attendees to storm the Capitol. Others draw attention to Trump’s closing remarks, telling his supporters to protest “peacefully and patriotically”. Whether it was Trump’s intention or not, rioters got violent with law enforcement and broke past barriers into the Capitol with Congress still in session. Some members of Congress were able to evacuate but others were trapped inside the Capitol during part of the riots. Rioters made it into the Senate Chamber and House Chamber. Some rioters even made in the offices of officials like Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and stole items like the podium from the House Chamber. Rioters were also chanting “Hang Mike Pence” because they viewed him as a traitor for not stopping the electorate count, even though it wasn’t in his authority. Rioters had occupied the Capitol for seven hours until mid-evening when law enforcement was able to get the riots under control. It’s notable to add that Trump resisted calling the National Guard and instead told the rioters that they are “very special” and should “go home in peace.” 

The individuals who stormed the Capitol are now being searched for by the FBI. The FBI has over 400 subject case files and 500 grand jury subpoenas, and search warrants issued. So far, 195 people have been arrested and charged with crimes. Some Republicans have attempted to claim that the attack on the Capitol was not by real Trump supporters, but rather left-wing extremist group Antifa. They believe that Antifa disguised themselves as Trump supporters in order to make Trump look bad, but FBI investigations have not found any ties between Antifa and the Capitol rioters. In fact, some of the people who were at the riots are listed as known or suspected white supremacists in the FBI’s database. 

Ultimately, the rioters’ efforts were for naught. After it was safe to reconvene, Congress certified the electoral votes, confirming Joe Biden’s victory, and he would go on to be inaugurated. As for Donald Trump, the Democrats in the House impeached him a second time. While the Democrats had a majority in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker, there was not enough bipartisan support to convict Trump. Ironically, the only thing these rioters achieved was leaving the president they so adore with an even worse approval rating and making more moderate Republicans and Trump supporters more welcoming of the new administration.