Armed National Guard troops patrolled U.S. Capitol grounds and camped out in congressional buildings as America prepared to go to war with herself.
At least 20,000 troops were deployed for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States but even practices for his swearing-in were postponed because of threats at one point. Troops unloaded boxes of food, gas masks and other supplies as security fencing with razor wire attached at the top was installed near the White House and in downtown Washington, D.C.
Law enforcement in nearby jurisdictions and different agencies inside the nation’s capital were on high alert as were police and other agencies across the country as domestic tension and insecurity were also on the rise.
The fear, angst and anger followed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and an attempt to nullify the 2020 presidential election. And, many acknowledged, the battle wasn’t over.
“The fact that President Trump and his followers didn’t succeed doesn’t change the core fact: Members of Congress who wanted to set aside the Electoral College slate and agitators who stormed the Capitol were both involved in a failed coup attempt,” said ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero.
“We shudder to think how police departments would have responded had Black and Brown individuals stormed a government building to protest police brutality. These are not protests—we know protests. These violent acts are meant to overthrow the legitimate outcome of a democratic election.”
Dr. Tyrone Powers, a former special agent with the FBI on counterterrorism and counterintelligence, said America has been fractured for a long time and White supremacy and militia groups are now taking advantage.
“I think what happened is that they’ve been emboldened to come out,” Dr. Powers said. “I don’t want to call it growth, because there’s two things you can do. You can grow, which is positive, or you can swell, which is an infection. This is infection, this swelling of people willing to take it to the next level.”
Prosecutions must be vigorous and the Capitol security breach has to be more than a superficial investigation, he added.
“In other words, we really have to have hearings after the new administration and asking the FBI how this happened, asking the ATF, asking the other federal agencies why were they not communicating?” Dr. Powers added. “After the 9/11 attack, the 9/11 Commission said the reason that that attack was successful was because of a lack of communication and a lack of imagination. So they can write the exact same thing about what happened on Jan. 6, the same kind of questions, the same kind of people brought forward. And then some prosecutions of those people who incited this, who participated in this or who had a fiduciary responsibility to stop this and didn’t do it.”
There have been reports that FBI workers captured info about the insurgent plans, shared it with higher ups and nothing happened.
In a sign of how divided the U.S. is, many saw those who raided and ransacked government buildings as fed up Americans, not terrorists.
Tension was thick in D.C. as officials also spoke of moving forward without agreement on what moving forward meant.
Some House Democrats accused members of the GOP of leading insurrectionists through the Capitol on a tour just a day before the Capitol invasion. They want an FBI investigation.
Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., told one reporter that the FBI is already “looking at who inside was helping.”
On his Fox News show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Tucker Carlson said while the acts were wrong, it was not an “insurrection.”
“It was not an act of racism. It was not an insurrection. It wasn’t an armed invasion by a brigade of White supremacists. It wasn’t. Those are lies,” he said.
He simply called it a mob whose emotions boiled over, as mobs tend to do.
On his program the day after the insurrection, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh compared the event to colonists Sam Adams, Thomas Paine and others who played roles in the American Revolution.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, who was in D.C. at the time of the insurrection, told The Final Call he was bewildered and angry but not surprised. President Trump has been appealing to elements in society that think like he does, said the Black congressman from Chicago.
“And that’s most unfortunate, because over the period of time from 1776, we’ve made a lot of progress in this country. But the president and his supporters, many of them have been trying to take the country backwards,” said the Chicago Democrat.
“Back to the era of Jim Crow, back to slavery, back to a period reminiscent of what was going on during, before and after slavery, until there was sort of a culmination of individuals who think that way, coming to Washington and attacking the government,” he continued. “Hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s real. It reinforces the idea and the concept that you have to fight for freedom and protect it as long as you live, because there are those who would attempt to take it away and deny it.”
The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump on Jan. 13, charging him with “incitement of insurrection.” This was Rep. Davis’ third time voting to impeach him. The first time was in 2017 with Rep. Al Green’s resolution, which failed. The second time was in 2019 when President Trump was impeached for the first time. Impeach simply means the House of Representatives charged the president with a crime. A trial for the alleged crime would have to take place in the Senate.
“After impeaching the president, I mean that’s just one part of it. We have to keep reinforcing the notion that freedom is not free. We have to continue the struggle for equal rights, equal opportunity, equal protection under the law, equal treatment by law enforcement,” Rep. Davis said.
Though he said it would be a political miracle for the Senate to convict President Trump, he explained the reason for a second impeachment.
“We can prevent him from being able to run for national office again. And if we can do that, then that would be a big tribute to the American people, because that would exercise the will of the people who don’t want to be saddled with Donald Trump on television every day for the next four years or listening to his rhetoric or being disturbed by his antics,” he said.
Ten House Republicans split from their party and voted to impeach President Trump.
Threats to national security
In an internal report issued a day before the insurrection, the FBI was warned that “extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and war.” Dr. Powers said there was no way the FBI did not know what would happen. There were numerous threats made via social media and other platforms in the weeks leading up to the insurrection, he noted.
He also explained that the FBI has a legal and ethical responsibility as the lead agent on domestic terrorism.
“They have a responsibility to know about this. This was a national security threat, and the FBI, in one of their reports, they indicated that they reached out to the Capitol Police and the Capitol Police said they didn’t need any assistance,” Dr. Powers said. “But that doesn’t make any sense because the FBI would never back down or back away because the Capitol Police told them they didn’t need any assistance, especially as it was a national security threat and a national security event.”
The former head of the Capitol Police said he reached out to numerous federal sources for help in advance of the Capitol invasion and no help was given.
Dr. Powers said other agencies who were at fault were the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“You have people in these agencies, whether they be police officers or others, who are friendly towards the Trump administration. So when you look and see, on occasion the barriers were moved back from where they had been during the Black Lives Matter movement event. When you see that there was not the same kind of deterrence or presence with National Guard or police officers in uniform on the steps of the Capitol, when you see all of that, that’s not only incompetence. Someone made a conscious decision to stand down and to stand back and to allow that group, whoever they may be, to have that kind of access to the Capitol building,” Dr. Powers said.
“It may not have been the officers at the lowest level who were out there trying to do the best they could under the circumstances. Some of them were. Others were obviously taking selfies and all, but someone at the top of that agency should have drawn a bright yellow line. The FBI should have had a bright yellow line. The ATF, the other agencies, when people were talking about bringing weapons and arms to Washington, D.C., that’s an alcohol, tobacco and firearms issue, that’s an FBI issue, that’s a military intelligence issue. All of them should have done more,” he continued.
Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf, who resigned from his post in the days following the insurrection, said in a statement that he instructed the U.S. Secret Service to begin security planning for the Inauguration in advance, on Jan. 13 instead of Jan. 19.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, questioned the timing of Mr. Wolf’s resignation.
“For months we have known Chad Wolf has been serving illegally in his position, so the timing of his resignation from the Department today is questionable,” he said to the Associated Press. “He has chosen to resign during a time of national crisis and when domestic terrorists may be planning additional attacks on our government.”
Meanwhile major monuments in Washington, D.C., were closed and the mayor of D.C. asked people to stay home and obey an evening curfew.
Five people, including two U.S. Capitol police officers, were reported dead after the Capitol invasion. More were arrested and charged as federal law enforcement sought out the American insurgents, who were among 8,000 people who descended on the U.S. Capitol urged on by Mr. Trump and his minions. Some carried weapons and zip ties, broke into the U.S. Capitol and momentarily halted official recognition of 2020 presidential election results and Mr. Biden’s victory.
Street violence, weapons and Molotov cocktails found, battles with police, disrespect of authority and plans to capture and kill lawmakers, according to media outlets and federal officials, showed a deep and dangerous divide.
Congressional Black Caucus chair Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) condemned “the riotous breach of the Capitol incited by Donald Trump.”
The failure of Capitol Police to stop the assault and their tenderhanded treatment of the invaders who wanted to stop Congress from ratifying the results of the presidential elections drew condemnation and firings.
The mob smashed windows, scaled walls, trashed offices, shut down congressional deliberations and even walked away with mail and other souvenirs between fights with police that left one woman described as an ardent Trump supporter dead from a gunshot allegedly from a federal officer. Three others died after “medical emergencies” related to the Capitol Hill assault. One Capitol Hill officer died as a result of invasion injuries. Another committed suicide.
St. Louis NAACP Chapter President Adolphus M. Pruitt said, “The most troubling aspects of the events that occurred at our nation’s capital center is the fact that in spite of all the chatter from groups that our intelligence operations have labeled as extremist and terrorist, law enforcement handled them with kid gloves. And even more frightening, what would the response be if these so-called patriots turned their anger and violence towards the Black community? As a race of people, we need to keep our eyes and ears open.”
“We are facing a foe far bigger than this moment. This assault was not an isolated incident but rather an insurrection centuries in the making. From the forcible removal of Native Americans from their own land to the enslavement and torture of Black bodies, America has sanctioned White supremacy since its inception,” said K. Sabeel Rahman of the Demos Foundation in D.C.
Joe Biden and the first Black and woman to be elected as vice president Kamala Harris were in the wings as America and the world witnessed an open display of the country’s racial divide and toxic politics.
The FBI and other agencies added insurrectionists to no fly lists. Airbnb reviewed reservations and banned guests associated with a hate group.
Before Inauguration Day, the FBI stated that armed protests were being planned at all 50 state capitols and in Washington, D.C., from Jan. 17 to at least Jan. 20.
“The FBI received information about an identified armed group intending to travel to Washington, DC on 16 January,” the bulletin read. “They have warned that if Congress attempts to remove POTUS via the 25th Amendment, a huge uprising will occur.”
One man, Lonnie Coffman, who was arrested and indicted in federal court, allegedly had a truck full of explosives and firearms along with a note categorizing members of Congress as either “good” or bad.” Rep. André Carson, a Black man and a Muslim, was on the list.
“It is extremely disturbing to learn from press reports that I was one of several individuals identified in a list of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ targeted for attacks,” Rep. Carson, an Indiana Democrat, said in a statement released Jan. 12. “The indicted terrorist had the means and opportunity to carry out his plans to violently attack, injure and destroy government officials and related offices in our Nation’s Capitol. These were not idle threats. These were planned and organized measures to take my life, my colleagues’ lives and try to destroy our government.”
These threats are not new. In May 2020, a Detroit man was charged for threatening to kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Dr. Tyrone Powers, said during the Million Man March in 1995, led by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, snipers were on top of buildings, and the military was on high alert.
“During the Million Man March there was no threat of violence. With a group threatening violence, this was allowed to happen. Those police officers, firefighters and other people who came from around the country, they need to be severely punished because even in the midst of this event, not only should they not have been participating in charging the Capitol building, they failed their responsibility. They should have been helping to de-escalate or put down the insurrection,” he said.
“Even if they went there, they can say, to exercise their first amendment right as police officers, as firefighters, as other public officials, legislators, at that point when this thing became violent, where they were rushing the Capitol building, where they were threatening to drag out the vice president of the United States and the speaker of the House and other politicians, they should have changed roles, at that point, and being the ones by fiduciary responsibility trying to de-escalate the situation,” he explained.
(Final Call staff contributed to this report.)