WASHINGTON—On Jan. 6, supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in the nation’s capital for a demonstration, called the “Save America March.”
The plan was to hold a rally in The President’s Park just south of the White House and then march to the Capitol building to demand that Congress and Vice President Mike Pence reject electoral votes for former Vice President Joe Biden from states where election results were marred by irregularities, allegations of fraud, and unconstitutional voting rule changes.
By the end of the day, the Capitol went through several rounds of lockdown after a sizable group of protesters broke inside. Four people died in or around the Capitol, including Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was shot dead by a Capitol Police officer. Three others died due to medical emergencies, authorities said. One man died of a heart attack and another of a stroke, and one woman was crushed by the crowd, several media reported.
A Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died the next day. He “was injured while physically engaging with protesters … returned to his division office and collapsed,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
ABC News reported that “authorities believe Sicknick’s death was driven by a medical condition,” referring to anonymous sources “familiar with the situation.” Some reports said he was hit with a fire extinguisher at the Capitol. Authorities are investigating those reports, the sources said, but they remain unconfirmed.
At least 57 officers were injured and 68 people were arrested by the next day, authorities said, while announcing that the chief of Capitol Police had resigned. At least a dozen more arrests have since been announced.
The dramatic and unprecedented events shook the nation; lawmakers and officials across the board denounced the violence. Trump repeatedly called for peace, but was later shut down by social media companies. His aide put out a statement in which the president committed to a peaceful transfer of power after Congress certified Biden as the next president.
In a short address on Jan. 7, Trump condemned the storming of the Capitol. He called it a “heinous attack” that “defiled the seat of American democracy.”
“To those who engaged in acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay,” he said. “We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high. But now, tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”
Here’s how events unfolded on Jan. 6, based on information collected from video clips, live video streams, and accounts collected from people on the ground by The Epoch Times.
The day started like many other recent Trump rallies. His supporters began to gather in the early hours of the morning, growing into a crowd of at least tens of thousands. A lineup of conservative personalities gave speeches, some focusing on demands for rejecting the current election results, while others focused more on the future of the Republican Party.
He said several state legislatures wanted to claw back the certification of their electoral votes, due to accumulating evidence of irregularities and fraud. Pence, he said, had the power to reject the votes that those state lawmakers no longer consider legitimate.
“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back,” Trump said to the crowd. “It’s like a boxer. And we want to be so nice, we want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we’re going to have to fight much harder. And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, that would be a sad day for our county. Because you’re sworn to uphold our Constitution.
“Now, it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you … we’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
“We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated—lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.
“Today, we will see whether Republicans stand strong for the integrity of our elections.”
Breach of the Capitol
Before Trump had finished his speech, many people had set off on the mile-long walk to the Capitol. Some said they needed to be there in time for the electoral vote count, which started at 1 p.m.
Hundreds of people, carrying Trump flags and wearing MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats and other Trump gear, had already gathered around noon near 1st Street, where police set up a fence about 500 feet from the Capitol. Some people wore helmets and other protective gear. Most stood around or chanted slogans.
Shortly before 1 p.m., a group of protesters approached the northwest part of the outer perimeter near the Peace Monument and demanded that they be let through the portable fence, which was guarded by a handful of police officers, one video shows. One man appeared to try to pick a fight with an officer, but another man stopped him and pulled him away.
As more people approached, several rioters in the front started to yank the fence and quickly pushed it over, pinning one female officer underneath. Two protesters immediately came to her rescue and helped pull her up and walked her to her colleagues. One rioter climbed over the fence and was immediately grabbed by two officers. Two rioters tried to pull the first one back, but another officer rushed in and punched one of the rioters. It appears none of the three rioters were wearing any Trump gear.
Meanwhile, a stream of people poured over the downed fence. The perimeter was broken.
Another video appears to have captured the same moment from a different angle near the center of the outer perimeter behind the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. A thin crowd of protesters is seen on the street, with more and more coming. A section of fencing is already broken. A handful of police are seen standing on the lawn further behind the fence. A woman with a loudspeaker starts to shout “Patriots go!”, urging people to jump the fence.
“Break the law! Hey, we’re breaking the law. We’re breaking the law! [Expletive] them! [Expletive] the police!” she shouts. Only a handful of people cross the fence. The videographer uses the hole in the fence to go in and heads to the northwest part of the perimeter, capturing the moment when the crowd breaks through.
Another clip of this moment was posted on Twitter at 1 p.m., about 12 minutes before Trump finished his speech.
Two more layers of the portable fence were placed on the pathway and in front of the first few Capitol steps, but the police weren’t guarding them at this point and people quickly dismantled or knocked them over. Police tried to form a line in front of another short fence near a second layer of steps, but as the crowd grew, the officers withdrew behind it. It took less than two minutes for the crowd to knock that barrier over. A few scuffles broke out and police used pepper spray.
The officers formed another line and a group of riot police arrived to fortify it.
The officers then pushed the crowd back, occasionally using pepper spray, and set up a layer of portable fencing. One man put his hands on an officer, who immediately punched him in the face. Another officer sprayed the man’s face with mace.
While the police line held, many people started to climb the scaffolding on the side of the steps leading to the west side entrance to the Capitol, as well as at least one secondary entrance.
At around 2:20 p.m., police were still blocking people on the ground level, but a large group had already formed on the upper levels and broken inside through a window they broke and a secondary entrance to the north of the main entrance. The crowd started to push through the police line near the southern staircase, an expletive-laden video shows.
One man slipped through, but was quickly knocked to the ground and apprehended by police; one officer proceeded to punch him into submission. Two more men got through and also were knocked to the ground.
Meanwhile, the police line near the northern staircase began to collapse, allowing a crowd to push through and pour into the space between the two staircases. Fights broke out between some rioters and the police. While some people were pulling rioters away from the police, the aggression continued. One officer was knocked down from behind; a rioter threw a fire extinguisher at a group of riot police, hitting an officer into the back of his helmet.
Videos from the scene taken by people who arrived with the main group of protesters from the rally show a group of rioters already clashing with police at the west Capitol entrance, above the steps, while a large group of protesters watches. At that point, it appears, hundreds have already made it inside the building and some can be seen through one of the windows.
Another video shows a crowd of rioters trying to force their way in through the west entrance. A large group of riot police eventually pushes them out. At least one rioter sprays the officers with what looks like pepper spray.
One video shows a heap of media equipment, some of it damaged, in front of the Capitol building, with protesters standing around.
At about 2:25 p.m., Capitol Police reported shots fired; only a handful of people knew what had just happened.
At about 2:30 p.m., lawmakers and staff were evacuated. At 2:31, Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a 6 p.m. curfew.
Some media blamed talk show host Alex Jones, head of Infowars, for inciting the Capitol breach. Infowars then published a video that shows Jones trying to convince the crowd to remain peaceful, avoid confrontation with police, leave the Capitol steps, and go to the other side of the building, where an event with speakers was supposed to take place. (The Wall Street Journal has retracted its claim about Jones.)
The video shows a large group of protesters did move to the other side of the building. There was no sign of the event, however, according to one of the protesters on site who later spoke to The Epoch Times.
Instead, a large group of protesters was walking to the central east side Capitol entrance. Smaller groups of protesters were also seen on the upper levels near the left and right secondary entrances on the east side of the building.
Police set up temporary fencing and formed a line behind it, about 250 feet from the east entrance. As the crowd grew, those in the front started to yank the fence and scuffle with police. The perimeter collapsed shortly after 2 p.m.
The protester said he was on the front lines as the crowd approached the steps leading to the central entrance. Only a handful of officers were there, and looked completely unprepared for the situation, he said. The crowd started to push its way up the stairs.
It appeared to the protester that some of the people around him and even some of the officers weren’t taking the situation very seriously, although one female officer was visibly upset and began to cry. She grabbed the protester’s hand, he said, but it appeared to him that she didn’t apply much force to stop him.
He took hold of her hand in return, quipping, “Are we going to dance here?”
The crowd swarmed up the stairs until the police line broke and people approached the door. Some were banging on the door, before it was opened; it’s not clear how, the protester said. Photos taken by the protester indicate the door had a magnetic lock, which could be forced open if the door handle was pulled strongly enough.
“I was kind of cattled in with the rest of the crowd,” the protester said.
One video shows people trying to keep the door open, while officers both inside and outside try to close it. One officer is pushed and collapses to the ground. Several people help him get back on his feet and usher him away.
At one point, Jones is seen at the steps of one of the east entrances, urging people to come down.
More footage shows a young man with no clear affiliation breaking a window next to the entrance on the right. He manages to smash one pane before he’s taken down by police, who handcuff him. The officers took him away, said the videographer, Bobby Powell, in a commentary to the video. The video shows the officers leaving, with nobody left to guard the broken window.
As Powell picks a few shards of glass from the windowsill, one man is heard saying, “Why don’t you guys open up the rest of it?”, apparently talking about the partly broken window.
“Because I think that’s probably illegal,” Powell is heard responding. The man makes another comment that is hard to understand. Powell said he was the same man who then came by and tore out another pane from the window. A man with an American flag pushes him aside as he approaches the window, apparently to stop others from going in.
“Do not go in there,” Powell says. “No,” the man replies. The man who tore out the pane shoves the other man back before saying something to him and shoving him again.
Overall, it appeared that several hundred people entered the building through different entrances and broken windows; the police needed several hours to clear them out.
Many of the Trump supporters in the main crowd outside the Capitol were unaware of what was going on inside, according to Ed Martin, president of the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund and one of the event’s organizers.
“I walked toward the Capitol. I got there a little bit later,” he told The Epoch Times. “All I saw was people protesting and actually kind of celebrating. There was a lot of joy and a lot of encouragement. The people that did terrible things and violence and all, I don’t know who they were. I don’t like that. That’s not something that I wanted to see. It makes everyone look bad.”
An affiliate of Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization, bussed more than 300 students to the event, but they left right after Trump’s speech and didn’t participate in the march to the Capitol, said Andrew Kovlet, the group’s spokesman, in an interview with The Epoch Times.
Among those who entered the building, there appears to have been several distinct behavior patterns.
One group seemed to just be wandering about without any apparent purpose.
Another group was walking through the corridors looking for lawmakers, whom they sought to confront with their concerns or demands. These groups appeared splintered and disorganized, with each smaller group seemingly led by several aggressive individuals willing to kick down doors and smash window panes in the process. There were some people trying to hold these people back in confrontations with police, but nobody was stopping them from trying to break through closed doors, some footage indicates.
The interviewed protester said he took the opportunity to get inside to find and talk to one of his representatives. Some others voiced similar intentions, he said.
Some individuals engaged in vandalism and stealing. Some stole small objects, apparently as “souvenirs,” but more valuable items also were pilfered. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)’s spokesman said that somebody stole a laptop belonging to her office from a conference room. It was “only used for presentations,” the spokesman said. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also reported a stolen laptop. A video shows that the office of the Senate parliamentarian was possibly ransacked. It also appears some of Pelosi’s mail was stolen.
A number of individuals appeared eager to fight with the police; they repeatedly provoked and scuffled with the officers at multiple locations, various videos indicate.
It appears there also was a group of people coming with a more defined plan. They came wearing various combinations of helmets, black or camouflage outfits, backpacks, and protective gear. Some had earphones and walkie-talkies. At least three men were carrying zip-tie-style handcuffs commonly used by law enforcement, including one identified online as a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. It appears one of the zip ties was used to block a door, though it’s not clear by whom, since police were also equipped with the zip ties.
While some people had posted online about plans to storm the Capitol and disrupt the vote certification, it isn’t clear if those were the same people who entered the building.
The people who stormed the building didn’t appear to be carrying firearms, although at least one was carrying what looked like a Taser. Some people also built gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. The interviewed protester said that while some people were yelling things about killing people, the crowd shouted them down.
Some people have speculated that the intrusion was a coup attempt. However, it’s not clear how that was supposed to happen without firearms.
The Capitol Police has been criticized for failing to prevent people from entering the building. Unidentified people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that the police rejected several offers of help, while Steven Sund, the chief of the Capitol Police who has resigned effective Jan. 16, says House and Senate security officials rejected or slow-walked multiple requests by the agency to call in the National Guard to assist.
One video clip circulated online shows several police officers allowing a crowd of protesters to breach a fence with minimal resistance; the video appears to be from a perimeter farther away from the Capitol.
Another video shows people entering a door and walking inside the building with police officers on both sides of the narrow corridor standing by, making no attempt to stop the people.
“You can’t go inside,” one of the officers says. Another appears to be shaking his head in disbelief.
The police appeared unprepared for crowd control at multiple points around the building. Bowser mobilized the National Guard ahead of the protest for “logistical support,” but, on Jan. 5, sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Pentagon saying she wasn’t requesting any extra federal personnel and that none would be deployed without coordinating with the D.C. police first.
Sund told The Washington Post that he asked the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms, his supervisors, for permission to get the National Guard on call ahead of the protest. He was denied.
At 2:26 p.m., he said, he joined a conference call to the Pentagon and asked for additional backup. He was denied. Pentagon officials said the National Guard isn’t suited for an immediate deployment and couldn’t be engaged in law enforcement actions. The troops eventually reached the Capitol after 5:40 p.m., the report said.
The behavior of the police inside the Capitol varied widely.
Videos from the House chamber show doors barricaded with furniture and officers guarding doors with guns drawn. In the Senate chamber area, it appears somebody used a fire extinguisher to try to stop the intruders.
Some videos show lawmakers visibly shaken, kneeling on the ground and hiding under desks. Some tried to contact law enforcement and even the military for help, but were told that police were already doing what they could, The Washington Post reported.
Lawmakers and staff were eventually evacuated through underground tunnels.
The interviewed protester said that upon entering, he and about a dozen others tried to go down a corridor from the Capitol Rotunda, but were almost immediately stopped by a group of police in riot gear. The officers first used pepper spray with no effect and then another irritant and tear gas, which quickly forced the trespassers back.
Eventually, a larger group of riot police came in from inside the building and cleared the area.
Other videos show officers standing or walking around among the protesters inside the building. One protester took a selfie with an officer, who was later suspended. He’s under investigation as are several other of his colleagues, including one who was reportedly seen wearing a MAGA hat and was seen directing people around, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said in a Jan. 11 statement.
It isn’t uncommon for protesters to enter government buildings en masse or to disrupt meetings of elected officials. In 2018, a crowd protesting the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh took over the atrium and some corridors of the Hart Senate Office Building, just northeast of the Capitol.
“We were planning to shut down the Capitol Building but the authorities were so scared of this #WomensWave that they shut it down for us,” reads a tweet from the official account of Women’s March, one of the organizers.
An actual storming of the Capitol by the United States’ own citizens, however, is unprecedented. A group of intruders had never before caused an interruption of the joint session of Congress that certifies the president.
Some lawmakers, including Pelosi, have called for fundamental reforms of Capitol Hill security. Both the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms have resigned, while the Capitol Police union has blamed a failure on the part of the leadership for the breach of the Capitol.
Antifa-Style Tactics Used, Involvement Unconfirmed
Videos indicate that some of the protesters acted as provocateurs and agitators, whipping up ire and urging people to push through the police, according to Michael Yon, a war correspondent with extensive experience covering violent protests, who was on site.
Yon described the actions of some individuals as “a mixture of agents provocateur and direct action attacks under cover of protest.”
He told The Epoch Times he identified at least three small groups of individuals engaged in behavior that aligns with that of Antifa cells.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) spoke of an advance warning that Antifa might infiltrate the protest.
“Congressman told me he was warned on TUESDAY by Capitol Police officer that intelligence suggested fascist ANTIFA was going to try to infiltrate the Trump rally by dressing like Trump supporters,” he said in a Jan. 7 tweet.
At least two Antifa supporters were spotted at the protest, an anonymous law enforcement source told The New York Post. FBI Assistant Director Steven D’Antuono said on Jan. 8 that there hadn’t yet been an indication of a role by Antifa, BuzzFeed reported.
An NTD cameraman captured the moment when a crowd of protesters spotted a man trying to break a window at the west side entrance with a club. The crowd started booing the man. Another man in a red Trump hat grabbed the man from behind and pulled him away from the window, to cheers from the crowd, which then started to chant, “[expletive] Antifa.”
Three men standing around the one who was banging on the window immediately came to his rescue. That aligns with Antifa operations, in which several individuals provide cover for the one engaged in illegal activity, Yon said.
A similar thing happened at another door, a video shows, where two people were trying to break in, until one protester stopped them, again followed with chants of “[Expletive] Antifa” from the crowd.
One of the people inside the building was John Sullivan, an opponent of Trump and a self-professed supporter of violent revolution. He said on Twitter that he was only there to report the events and tried to “blend in,” although a video that he published online shows him egging on intruders and convincing police officers to let them through during several impasses.
He was closely followed inside by a female videographer. At one point, she turns to Sullivan and says: “Let me give you a hug now. We did it. You were right. We did it.”
“Dude, I was trying to tell you. I couldn’t say much,” he replies.
The woman also says, “You aren’t recording, right?”
“I’ll delete that [expletive] up,” he replies. “But I didn’t record you, I mean.”
He told The Epoch Times he was referring to plans for storming the Capitol he saw on “undergrounds chats and things like that.” He posted information about the plans on his social media, but didn’t inform the law enforcement. “I’m not a snitch,” he said in a phone call.
Photos of some intruders from inside the Capitol were circulated online with the claim that three of the men pictured are Antifa adherents, which appears to be incorrect.
One of the men was Jake Angeli. He appears to be a regular at different kinds of protests and has frequented pro-Trump events. He has professed sympathies to “Q,” the anonymous online persona that makes cryptic posts insinuating that Trump and others are fighting against a global cabal engaged in corruption and child trafficking. The Arizona Republic described Angeli as a “shamanic practitioner” at a climate activism march in 2019.
“I’ve been practicing shamanism for over a decade,” he told Infowars in a recent interview, when Jones excoriated him for his actions at the Capitol.
His tattoos appear to be largely related to folk spirituality. There’s no indication that he has any connection to Antifa, and he also has denied having any. He used to have an actor’s profile on Backstage.com.
The other two men accompanying Angeli bear a resemblance to two people tied to neo-Nazism. One was involved in the Traditionalist Workers Party, a now-defunct national socialist group. It isn’t clear whether the pictures indeed show the same man. The other man has in the Capitol photo a visible tattoo on his hand that at first looks similar to a hammer and sickle, a communist symbol. On closer inspection, however, it seems the symbol is actually from a video game and doesn’t appear to be tied to any political group.
Some protesters started to manhandle an AP photographer outside the building, mistaking him for an Antifa follower as he was dressed in all black with a gas mask on, which aligns with an Antifa tactic called “black bloc.” The crowd let him go after he produced his press pass.
The FBI has released photos of dozens of people, asking for help with identification (pdf). Most face charges of unlawful entry. The bureau also asked for help with identifying a masked man who officials say placed pipe bombs at the Republican and Democratic National Committee headquarters. One of the devices was found around 12:45 p.m. and the other at about 1:15 p.m. on Jan. 6, according to a Jan. 7 National Explosives Task Force report obtained by CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge.
Another 11 suspected improvised bombs were found in a vehicle near Republican National Committee headquarters around 6 p.m., the report said.
A tragic moment took place at about 2:24 p.m. One graphic video shows a group of protesters in a corridor being approached by several officers wearing tactical gear and armed with rifles. The officers are interacting with a man in a black suit with a pin on his lapel and a black mask covering a respirator on his face. Some of the protesters were standing in front of a door marked “Speaker’s Lobby,” which is located in the south wing behind the House chamber. Glass panels in the door and on both sides of it are broken or missing.
A young woman wearing a Trump flag on her back is seen climbing into an empty frame on the right side of the door. A single gunshot is heard. The woman falls back out of the empty frame. With blood on her mouth, she seems to try to get up, but unsuccessfully. The officers and the protesters both realize what has happened and try to stop the bleeding and get the woman out. She was transported to a hospital in critical condition.
Several hours later, a police spokeswoman said the woman had died. She was identified as Ashli Babbitt, a U.S. Air Force veteran. The shooting is under investigation.
Another graphic video, taken by Sullivan, shows that the door was blocked from the other side by a pile of furniture while three officers stood in front of the door guarding it as the crowd rushed in. While some shouted at the police, Sullivan tried to convince them to leave voluntarily.
“Bro, I’ve seen people out there get hurt. I don’t want to see you get hurt. … Please, let us make a path. Just let us make a path. I want you to go home,” he says.
The officers seem to talk to each other briefly and then walk away.
“Go. Go. Let’s go. Get this [expletive],” Sullivan shouts.
Three rioters proceed to break the door’s window panes with kicks, a flag pole, and a helmet.
“Yo! There’s a gun! There’s a gun! There’s a gun!” Sullivan shouts, while his video shows a man in a white shirt and dark suit and mask behind the door. The man is aiming a handgun in the direction of the empty frame for about nine seconds. As soon as Babbitt climbs in, he fires a single shot.
One of the protesters at the scene described the situation in a WUSA interview:
“We had stormed into the chambers inside and there was a young lady who rushed to the windows and a number of police and Secret Service were saying, ‘Get back, get down, get out of the way.’ She didn’t heed the call and as we kind of raised up to grab people, pull them back, they shot her in her neck, and she fell back on me and started saying she was ‘fine, it’s cool’ and then she started kind of like moving weird, and blood was coming out of her mouth and neck and nose, and I don’t know if she’s alive or dead anymore.”
That protester identified himself as Thomas Baraniy from New Jersey. He said he and others entered the building after climbing the scaffolding and were eventually ushered out of the building by riot police.
“We tore through the scaffolding, the flashbangs, and tear gas, and blitzed our way in through all the chambers just trying to get into Congress or whoever we can get to and tell them that we need some kind of investigation into this,” he said. “And what ends up happening is someone might [have] ended up dead and that’s not the kind of government we can have. People have to do something about it.”
He said he wasn’t injured, but noted that it might have been him who was shot if the woman hadn’t been the first to try to climb in.
The police managed to clear the protesters and rioters out of the building by about 5 p.m., and the Senate session resumed shortly after 8 p.m. In the early hours on Jan. 7, Congress certified Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Correction: A previous version of the timeline in this article placed several events at incorrect times. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
Update: The has been updated with a response form John Sullivan.
NTD contributed to this report.