11 January 2021

Capitol police ‘made no added preparations ahead of riot’ despite warnings of pro-Trump demonstrations

US Capitol police did not bolster staffing ahead of planned protests at the building last week which led to deadly rioting, despite ample warnings about pro-Trump demonstrations in Washington, according to sources.

Officials revealed that no preparations were made for the possibility that the planned protests could escalate into riots, and the department had the same number of officers in place as on a routine day.

The revelations shed new light on why Capitol police were so quickly overrun by rioters, leading to five deaths.

While some of those officers were outfitted with equipment for a protest, they were not staffed or equipped for a riot.

Once the mob began to move on the Capitol, a police lieutenant issued an order not to use deadly force, which explains why officers outside the building did not draw their weapons as the crowd closed in.

Officers are sometimes ordered against escalating a situation by drawing their weapons if superiors believe doing so could lead to a stampede or a shootout.

In this instance, it also left officers with little ability to resist the mob.

In one video from the scene, an officer puts up his fists to try to push back a crowd pinning him and his colleagues against a door.

US Capitol protester (AP)

The crowd jeers “You are not American”, and one man tries to prod him with the tip of an American flag.

“They were left naked,” Democratic representative Maxine Waters said of the police in an interview with the Associated Press.

She had raised security concerns in a meeting of House Democrats on December 28, and grilled Steven Sund, the Capitol police chief, during an hour-long private call on New Year’s Eve.

“It turns out it was the worst kind of non-security anybody could ever imagine,” Ms Waters said.

Peace Monument (AP)

The Capitol police’s lacklustre response to the riots, poor planning and failure to anticipate the seriousness of the threat have drawn condemnation from members of congress and prompted the removal of the department’s chief and the Sergeants at Arms of both the US house of representatives and senate.

As the full extent of the insurrection becomes clear, the FBI is also investigating whether some of the rioters had plans to kidnap members of congress and hold them hostage.

Investigators are particularly focused on why some of them were seen carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs and had apparently accessed areas of the Capitol generally difficult for the public to locate, according to an official.

Larry Rendell Brock, of Texas, and Eric Gavelek Munchel, of Tennessee, who both were photographed with plastic restraints as they broke into the Capitol, were arrested by the FBI on Sunday. Prosecutors said Brock also donned a green helmet, tactical vest and camouflage jacket.

The crowd that arrived in Washington on Wednesday was no surprise, as US president Donald Trump had been urging his supporters to come to the capital and some hotels had been booked to 100% capacity – setting off alarm bells because tourism in Washington has nosedived amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Justice officials, the FBI and other agencies began to monitor flights and social media for weeks and were expecting massive crowds.

A leader of the far-right extremist group Proud Boys was arrested coming into the city with high-powered magazine clips emblazoned with the group’s logo, police said. The clips were not loaded, but he was planning to attend a rally near the White House.

Capitol Police leaders, however, had prepared for a free speech demonstration. No fencing was erected outside the Capitol and no contingency plans were prepared in case the situation escalated, according to the insiders.

Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado, said army secretary Ryan McCarthy told legislators on Sunday that the US defence department and law enforcement officials had prepared for a crowd similar to protests in November and December in the “low thousands”, and that they had been preparing for small, disparate violent events, like stabbings and fist fights.

Mr McCarthy also said Mr Sund and mayor Muriel Bowser had called for urgent reinforcements from the defence department as the crowd surged towards officers, but were “unable to articulate what resources are needed and in what locations, due to chaos”.

Ms Waters grilled Mr Sund on exactly these kinds of questions – about the Proud Boys and other groups coming, about keeping them off the Capitol plaza. The police chief insisted they knew what they were doing.

“He kept assuring me he had it under control – they knew what they were doing,” she said. “Either he’s incompetent, or he was lying, or he was complicit.”

Those decisions left the officers policing the Capitol like sitting ducks, officials said, with little guidance and no cohesive plan on how to deal with the flood of rioters streaming into the building.

Officers have been criticised for their actions after snippets of videos taken by the rioters showed some posing for selfies, acquiescing to demands by screaming rioters to move aside so they could stream inside the building.

But other videos show officers trying in vain to keep the crowd from breaking into the building.

One disturbing video shows a bloodied Metropolitan police officer screaming for help as he is crushed by protesters inside the Capitol building. The young officer is pinned between a riot shield and metal door. Bleeding from the mouth, he cries out in pain and screams for help.

One officer died in the riot and at least a dozen were injured. Five people in total died during the mayhem.

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