“Far from a surprise, the insurrection on Wednesday had been in the works for a long time, with support from the president himself. On December 19, he tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” His supporters took the name Wild Protest, as ProPublica reports, and began publicly planning an occupation. “We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th,” movement leaders wrote on December 23.
Meanwhile, DC officials had begun tracking incoming bus reservations in the days leading up to Wednesday and realized “this could be a stadium-sized crowd,” one official told the Washington Post. On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser began warning DC residents to stay away from downtown, the Post reported.
But despite clear warning signs from Trump and his supporters — and the fact that city officials were on high alert — Capitol Police did not prepare for the size or violence of the crowd. Relaying conversations he’d had with police officials, Rep. Ryan told reporters the threat assessment done by law enforcement seriously underestimated the potential threat.”
“Police set up only low barriers around the perimeter of the building and were wearing ordinary uniforms instead of riot gear, the Post noted. As many pointed out, this was in stark contrast to the law enforcement response to Black Lives Matter protests this summer, when members of the National Guard formed an intimidating phalanx outside the Lincoln Memorial, clad in military-style gear.
“Being candid, I think if there were Black people out there, I think there would’ve been a different response in what they did,” Ryan told reporters Thursday.”
“police were unable to prevent rioters from entering the building — or, in some cases, did not even try. One officer appeared to take a selfie with a Trump supporter as the mob roamed the building.”
“even after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, making abundantly clear the seriousness of the moment, police appeared to let many of them simply leave of their own accord rather than making arrests. That’s in part because there simply weren’t enough personnel on hand to both ensure the safety of members of Congress and make arrests, officials told the Post. Around 52 people had been arrested as of Thursday morning, out of a crowd of thousands that gathered around the Capitol. (The exact number of rioters who entered the Capitol is unclear.)
By contrast, more than 150 people were arrested by Capitol Police after demonstrations against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018. And last summer, more than 400 people were arrested over the course of a few days in connection with protests against police violence.
In all, officials described an unprecedented failure to plan for and respond to what should have been an entirely predictable event: angry Trump supporters, stoked by the president’s tweets and his speech on Wednesday urging them to “walk down to the Capitol,” descending on the seat of Congress to incite mayhem.”
“It’s not clear why Capitol Police were so unprepared for Wednesday’s obvious threat. The department has not responded to requests for comment from Vox or the Washington Post. In his statement on Thursday, Sund said that the department “had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities.””
“some speculate that despite repeated public warnings, law enforcement just couldn’t believe Trump supporters would really storm the Capitol. “Would you imagine people were going to break into the Capitol and go into the chambers?” David Carter, director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University, remarked to ProPublica. “That failure of imagination sometimes makes us drop the ball.”
Others say that law enforcement might have been trying to use a lighter touch after criticisms of the way the summer’s protests were handled. “I’m pretty sure the Capitol Police were trying to do something a little softer, as we try to welcome protesters up there, but it got out of hand,” Terrance Gainer, former chief of the Capitol Police, said on CNN Thursday.
And while there were a few National Guard troops posted around the city, DC officials had reportedly asked them to maintain a limited presence, not wanting a repeat of the events of the summer, like the gassing of protesters in Lafayette Square, according to the Post.”
“some suggest that perhaps Capitol Police also had little interest in stopping the rioters, some of whom carried pro-police “thin blue line” flags. “The police might have been complicit because many sympathize with President Trump’s cause, or because many of the insurrectionists are the same people that support the ‘blue lives matter’ counter-movement,” Sabrina Karim, a professor of government at Cornell who studies security, said in a statement to media on Wednesday’s events. “They have been supportive of the police, and thus arresting ‘allies’ may not be in the larger interests of the police.”
And while police might have been trying a “softer” approach, it’s impossible to ignore the differences in law enforcement response with protests earlier this year.
On Wednesday, a group of mostly white Trump supporters were allowed to take selfies and roam freely in the Capitol because they falsely believed the election was rigged. This summer, a diverse group of protesters were subject to military-style control when they gathered to demonstrate against police brutality. Especially glaring is the contrast between the intentions of the two groups.
“There was zero intelligence that the Black Lives Matter protesters were going to ‘storm the capitol,’” Washington Attorney General Karl Racine said on CNN Wednesday. “Juxtapose that with what we saw today, with hate groups, militia and other groups that have no respect for the rule of law go into the capitol. … That dichotomy is shocking.”
And as lawmakers investigate what went wrong on Wednesday — and why — the events of the day raise serious questions about the security of the Capitol not just now but in the future, and about what happens the next time Trump decides to whip supporters into a frenzy. With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration coming up on January 20, those concerns couldn’t be more urgent.”