Inside the Capitol siege: How barricaded lawmakers and aides sounded urgent pleas for help as police lost control – The Washington Post

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted. “Be there, will be wild!”

…A cacophony of screaming, shouting and banging echoed from the floor below. McConnell’s security detail rushed past and into the chamber. The adviser began walking toward the Rotunda and came face to face with a U.S. Capitol Police officer sprinting in the opposite direction. The two made eye contact and the officer forced out a single word: “Run!”

The aide to McConnell (R-Ky.) darted down a side hallway lined with offices. He jiggled one locked doorknob, then another. A co-worker poked his head out of the office of McConnell’s speechwriter. The adviser lunged, pushing him and a colleague back inside.

…Three senior GOP aides piled furniture against the door and tried to move stealthily, worried that the intruders would discover them inside. In waves, the door to the hall heaved as rioters punched and kicked it. The crowd yelled “Stop the steal!” Some chanted menacingly, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?”

Peering out a window into a courtyard below, the adviser could see scores of people still streaming in — and no police in sight.

…A terrifying reality was taking hold — the Capitol police had lost control and no one was coming to save Congress, at least not right away.

…Armed only with their phones and some of the best Rolodexes in the world, lawmakers and their aides began calling and texting anyone they thought could help — the secretary of the Army, the acting attorney general, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, governors of nearby states, the D.C. mayor.

…[An advisor] reached out to former top officials at the Justice Department.

Speaking in a whisper, he told one the situation was dire: If backup did not arrive soon, people could die.

…The president added: “If you don’t fight like hell,
you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

…Lofgren’s aides could see outside that a ragtag group of rioters had been able to climb atop the risers and the platforms.

Neither Lofgren nor her staff could reach the Capitol police chief on the phone, she later recounted.

…Waters placed an urgent call to Sund, who was at Capitol police headquarters two blocks away, two law enforcement officials said.

Protesters were already crossing the plaza. “What are you going to do about it?” Waters asked. “We’re doing the best we can,” came Sund’s reply, she said, and then the line went dead.

Waters was unsure if the call had dropped or if Sund hung up. She turned to a staffer: “That’s not a plan.”

…Irving was placing a call to a law enforcement association that can organize mutual aid from county and state police forces in suburban Maryland and Virginia, according to people in the room. The request was brand new, and it would take an hour or two for any officers to arrive, Irving was told. A Democratic aide and a Republican one in the room looked at each other in surprise.

At that point, Irving began talking about bringing in the National Guard. While a few hundred D.C. National Guard members had been activated and were elsewhere in the city, the two aides realized there was no arrangement to pre-stage military assets to help at the Capitol.

In fact, a small quick-reaction force at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland had been assembled by the Defense Department to assist if needed — but it did not immediately respond because of a lack of a prior planning with Capitol police over how it might be deployed.

…A handful of Capitol police officers had been backed into a corner, under the scaffolding holding up the inaugural stage. One was pulled down a set of stairs and then beaten and kicked while he tried to cover his head, according to footage of the incident.

Atop the stairs, another had his helmet ripped off as he tried to hold up the last remaining metal barrier before the crowd could flood into the building. A person in the mob sprayed something at an officer. Another lifted a hammer above his head as if preparing to throw it, and then instead began striking at the barrier, where officers were holding it with their hands.

…At 2:14 p.m., Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) had begun his speech objecting to Arizona’s electoral college results. As he spoke, Pelosi’s protective detail agents hustled her away.

…Plainclothes Capitol Police officers dragged a desk to use as a barricade in front of the door that presidents enter to deliver the annual State of the Union address.

On the other side [of the chamber], rioters began breaking small windows. The officers inside drew their guns.

Dozens of rioters pressed against police trying to block their entry into the Speaker’s Lobby.

…Several officers left their post seconds before much heavily armed reinforcements showed up. But in those few seconds, the rioters smashed in the windows of the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby and were on the verge of entering the House chamber.

…Eight Pelosi staffers trapped inside their suite barricaded themselves inside a staff conference room, and huddled together under the table in the middle, hoping that the protesters who had already broken down one door — and were rummaging through materials and shooting selfies with their feet up on an executive assistant’s desk — wouldn’t make it any farther inside.

The vice president hurried out a door.

At that moment, one floor below, rioters had crashed through windows and climbed into the Capitol and clashed with police, including a lone Black Capitol police officer who tried to prevent them from ascending toward the Senate chamber.

For almost a minute, the officer held them back — at the exact moment that, inside the Senate, police were frantically racing around the chamber trying to lock down more than a dozen doors leading to the chamber floor and the galleries above.

“Second floor!” the officer yelled into his radio, alerting other officers and command that the mob had reached the precipice of the Senate.

At 2:16 p.m., Bobic tweeted a photo of a half-dozen police confronting the protesters.

According to the contemporaneous notes of a Washington Post reporter inside the chamber, it was mere seconds of a differential: “2:15 p.m., Senate sealed.”

Back in the barricaded room with McConnell aides, one staffer began snapping photos through a window. They could see Trump supporters streaming toward the building — and just four police officers.

The FBI official had been hearing radio traffic of aggressive protesters pushing through the perimeter, but Levi said it had gone even further: The mob had already crashed the gates and lives were at risk.

Capitol police had said previously they didn’t need help, but Bowdich decided he couldn’t wait for a formal invitation.

He dispatched the first of three tactical teams, including one from the Washington field office to secure the safety of U.S. senators and provide whatever aid they could. He instructed two more SWAT teams to follow, including one that raced from Baltimore.

…“Get their asses over there. Go now,” he said to the first team’s commander. “We don’t have time to huddle.”

From their secure locations, meanwhile, Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) made calls for help to acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

“Ralph, there’s glass being broken around me,” Northam recalled Pelosi saying. “I’ve heard there’s been gunfire. We’re just very, very concerned right now.’”

…At 3:42 a.m. Thursday, Pence affirmed Biden’s victory as the next president.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-capitol-siege/2021/01/09/e3ad3274-5283-11eb-bda4-615aaefd0555_story.html

n/t

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