- A mob of President Trump’s supporters smashed their way into the US Capitol on Wednesday.
- Two of them described the “hilarious” carnival-like scene that unfolded. Inside the Capitol, rioters took selfies, waved a Confederate flag, and threw stacks of documents across the floor.
- Protesters descended on Washington to rally behind the president’s unfounded claims about the legitimacy of his re-election defeat.
- The protest dissolved into a riot that sent lawmakers into lockdown and delayed the certification of the electoral results.
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Thomas Adams was one of the first to step foot in the US Capitol.
Flanked by dozens of supporters of President Donald Trump, Adams trampled police barricades and made his way into the halls of government, eventually reaching the Senate chamber where lawmakers had been evacuated.
“It was a really fun time,” Adams, wearing a Trump flag around his neck like a cape, would say a few hours later, as he shared cell phone footage of his escapades.
The violent siege unfolded on Wednesday on live TV and began as legislators were convening to certify President-elect Joseph Biden’s win. Lawmakers and their staff went into lockdown and Mayor Muriel Bowser later ordered a 6pm curfew. Several Democratic lawmakers, describing the day’s events as an attempted coup, called for Trump to be impeached.
Adams’ account, which was backed up by his video, offers a sense of what it was like inside.
Adams, 39, and his friend Roy Franklin, 65, had traveled from Springfield, Illinois, for the rally the president had held earlier in the day, and had been spurred on by Trump’s claim, unsupported by evidence, that he had been cheated out of victory. Trump has refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory and called on his allies to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Adams and Franklin were at the bottom of the steps of the US Capitol building around 2 p.m., pressed close to the police barricade. Hundreds of rioters behind them were pushing forward so hard that Franklin tripped and fell onto a police officer. The officer barely reacted, Franklin said.
That was when they saw people scaling the scaffolding on the side of the building, and Adams and Franklin followed. Later in the day, another climber fell from the same scaffolding.
When they got to the top, Adams recalled turning around to take in the scene: a sea of red, white, and blue, with Trump supporters packed on to the national mall. Then, rioters smashed a window on the building ahead of them and clambered inside. Shortly after, the same people began opening doors from inside the building to let others inside, including Adams and Franklin.
A line of police officers were waiting inside the building’s hallways to see what the invaders would do.
“They weren’t really doing much, a few of them had batons, just waiting to see if we’d try to push past them,” said Adams. The video confirmed his account.
One man waved a bright yellow “Don’t Tread on Me Flag” and another waved a Confederate flag. Riotous crows hollered “Stop the Steal!” And chanted “USA, USA, USA!” and “Whose house? Our house!”
A television screen in the hallway announced that the Senate stood in recess. Adams and Franklin followed the mob down the hallway and onto the floor of the Senate chamber. Once they were inside, a shirtless man with a makeshift animal skin headdress and his face painted red, white, and blue (who was later identified as Jake Angeli) stood at the Speaker’s chair, wielding a bullhorn and flexing his biceps.
“The government is corrupt and bullshit,” Adams recalls him announcing to the chamber, while acolytes cheered the man on. Adams said Angeli called for a vote on the government’s legitimacy to delighted cries of support from onlookers, but that police entered the room and told him to stop before they could finish. He described the entire scene as “hilarious.”
Adams continued to film on his phone while people walked up and down the senate halls, taking selfies and calling their families. Others tore drawers open and pulled reams of documents out of desks, spreading them over tables and throwing them across the floor.
By 5:45 p.m, the Sergeant at Arms announced the Capitol building had been secured. One woman had been shot and killed by a US Capitol Police officer. According to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee III, three additional people involved with the riot died as a result of medical emergencies on Wednesday.
Some of those involved in the siege were gathering outside of downtown hotels, drinking beers, and recounting the day’s events in defiance of the pending 6 p.m. citywide curfew.
Some were exhausted from a day of rampaging but others were energized.
Franklin concluded the day had been “fun.
“But I think that even if we had burned it down to the ground Congress still wouldn’t have listened to us.”
Adams wasn’t so sure. “I think everything was great until it went from peaceful to everyone acting like a bunch of 12-year-olds destroying things,” he said.
With nightfall, intentions turned even darker than the events at the Capitol. “Next time we won’t be so peaceful!” shouted one man. Another peddling Trump T-shirts shouted into a bullhorn: “Who else wants to go BLM hunting tonight?”