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Police explain what went wrong at the Capitol

Police officers confront protesters at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

Police explain what went wrong at the Capitol

As mobs of demonstrators marched to the seat of the U.S. government on Wednesday, the law enforcement agency defending it had the same number of officers on hand as a routine day. The Defense Department and Capitol Police had prepared for a crowd numbering in the low thousands and threats such as isolated stabbings and fist fights, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said, citing Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. As rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, a police lieutenant ordered officers not to use deadly force. Police Chief Steven Sund told The Washington Post that House and Senate security officials denied his request to put the District of Columbia National Guard on standby ahead of time. Sund, who has announced his resignation, said his superiors worried about the “optics” of formally declaring an emergency ahead of Wednesday’s demonstration.

Is more violence expected? Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called for an emergency declaration from the Department of Homeland Security in advance of President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The FBI in an internal bulletin warned of possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols starting this coming weekend.

Dig deeper: Read an excerpt from David French’s book Divided We Fall in WORLD’s Saturday Series.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital's managing editor. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Lynde resides with her family in Wichita, Kansas.



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A timeline of events on January 6: 

President Trump was scheduled to speak at 11 am, but didn't speak until noon. 
12 pm – President starts speaking at the Ellipse 
about 12:40 pm – “first wave of protesters arrived at the Capitol” – per Washington Post – “Sund’s outer perimeter on the Capitol’s west side was breached within 15 minutes” – per Washington Post 
1 pm – “I realized at 1pm, things aren’t going well… I’m watching my people getting slammed.” – per ex-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund 
1:09 pm – “Sund called the Sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate. He told them it was time to call in the National Guard. He even said he wanted an emergency declaration. Both, however, said they would ‘run it up the chain’ and get back to him.” 
1:11 pm – President concludes speaking – “at least a 45-minute walk between the two locations with crowd-related delays, that would put the first people from Trump’s speech at Capitol Hill no earlier than 1:56pm” 
1:50 pm – “the Capitol itself was breached. Still before most Trump speech attendees could have arrived.” 
past 5 pm – “the National Guard arrived”