Thousands of President Trump's supporters surrounded the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday afternoon as Congress met inside the building to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Many protested peacefully, but a substantial number did not, and the entire scene quickly devolved into utter chaos.
Shouting "MAGA" and "stop the steal," some protesters breached police barricades and then the very doors of the Capitol, forcing Congress to suspend certification. There are photos and videos on social media of rightwing agitators clashing with police in the halls of the building, and even making it to the floor.
I walked the perimeter of the building, and saw multiple groups of pro-Trump protesters climbing up walls, knocking down doors, and smashing windows. Some carried hockey sticks, flag poles, and wore riot gear. The police were frequently overwhelmed, and deployed tear gas. The air was thick with it, and the considerable winds caused clouds of the stuff to blow over the crowds of people who were actually standing back and behaving themselves. I saw dozens of them coughing, crying, and a few trying desperately to pour water into their eyes.
Protesters attempting to enter the building screamed at the police that they were oathbreakers and traitors. Many called for a second American Revolution. I heard a few members of the pro-Trump crowd who were surprised by the amount of violence coming from their side try to claim that this was the handiwork of undercover antifascist provocateurs; it was not. These were earnest rightwing militants resorting to the kind of lawlessness they frequently deride when practiced by leftwing political extremists at racial justice demonstrators.
Indeed, what happened at the Capitol was no less a riot than any of the window-smashing and church-burning that occurred in the summer, ostensibly under the banner of Black Lives Matter. The biggest difference I saw today was that many, many fewer people wore masks—despite being packed into very close quarters, shouting, smoking, and choking on tear gas. And of course, the pandemic is far less under control than it was in the summer.
What a great day for COVID-19, and an awful day for the country. For sheer consistency, anyone who criticized the unruly antics of antifa must swiftly condemn both this madness and the far-right grifters who stoked it.
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