In this Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021 photo, riot fencing and razor wire reinforce the security zone on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Eileen Putman)

Riot aftermath: Still-shaken lawmakers, troops stand guard

WASHINGTON — On Jan. 6, the U.S. Capitol was besieged by supporters of Donald Trump angered by the then-president’s election loss. While lawmakers inside the building were voting to affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s win, Trump loyalists were marching to Capitol Hill and breaking in. Five people died in the violent melee, including a police officer. Trump’s impeachment trial begins Tuesday on a charge that he incited the riot.

A look at what happened that day and the fallout since:

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Capitol Police had planned only for a free speech demonstration. Law enforcement was badly outnumbered and ill-prepared as thousands of Trump supporters marched from the Ellipse near the White House to the Capitol. The rioters broke through police barriers, breached doors and wandered around the building for hours, sending lawmakers into hiding.

Officers who have spoken to The Associated Press say they are angry with their leaders for failing to provide enough equipment or backup to defend the Capitol. Some officers want the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, who took over when Chief Steven Sund resigned after the riot, to step aside as well.

The Capitol Police union had scheduled a no-confidence vote Thursday against Pittman, but postponed the vote in deference to the services of slain Officer Brian Sicknick, who was laid to rest Wednesday. Union leaders were criticized by some officers who considered it insensitive to vote the day after Sicknick’s burial. The vote has not yet been rescheduled.

Pittman has acknowledged the department knew before Jan. 6 that extremists and white supremacists could be in the crowd outside the Capitol. But Pittman and other leaders are still pointing fingers about who was responsible for not bolstering security. After Pittman told a congressional committee that Sund’s request to activate the National Guard was denied by the three-member Capitol Police Board, a member of the board issued a statement denying that claim.

In a video Friday, Pittman said the department would make “significant changes to our operations, policies, and procedures” after internal and outside investigations.

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WHO HAS BEEN CHARGED AND WITH WHAT?

About 190 people as of Friday were charged in federal court with federal crimes. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol. Investigators are scouring social media posts, videos and tips from the public to track down others. There are about 80 others charged in local court in the District of Columbia.

The criminal charges range widely in severity from misdemeanour citations for violating the 6 p.m. curfew imposed by the mayor on Jan. 6 to felony counts related to the illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives, as well as assaults on law enforcement officers with metal poles, hockey sticks and bear spray.

The FBI has said it has opened more than 400 other subject files to try to identify other potential suspects and has received more than 200,000 photo and video tips from the public. Federal agents and prosecutors have been working for weeks to build cases against the rioters.

Based on the AP’s review of the court documents and other information, those facing charges are overwhelmingly fervent Trump supporters from more than 40 states who responded to the then-president’s call to come to Washington as part of his false claim the November election was stolen from him.

Those facing conspiracy charges include three people affiliated with the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group. They are accused of plotting in advance and co-ordinating their attack on the Capitol.

Several members of the Proud Boys, a far-right, male chauvinist extremist group that seized on the Trump administration’s policies, have been charged with conspiracy. A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Nicholas Ochs, one of the founders of Hawaii’s chapter of the Proud Boys, and Nicholas DeCarlo of Texas. Authorities say the pair scrawled “Murder the media” on a door of the Capitol and stole a pair of flexible handcuffs that belonged to Capitol Police.

No charges have been brought yet in Sicknick’s death. A special group of prosecutors is weighing whether to bring sedition charges against any of the rioters, officials have said.

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WHAT WAS THE DAMAGE?

Damage to the Capitol was largely limited to broken windows and doors. Crews also found graffiti on the West Front of the building and broken light fixtures. An estimate on the cost to taxpayers has not yet been completed.

“Statues, murals, historic benches and original shutters all suffered varying degrees of damage — primarily from pepper spray accretions and residue from tear gas and fire extinguishers — that will require cleaning and conservation,” the initial assessment from the Architect of the Capitol concluded.

Damage to the people within the Capitol complex that day is an unfolding story.

In videos and on the House floor, lawmakers have teared up when they recall the events of Jan. 6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has urged representatives to talk about that day and arranged for them to share their stories in a video. She said the videos would provide a historical record and facilitate “the healing process.”

To that end, lawmakers gathered on the House floor Thursday evening to share their experiences, which will be recorded in the Congressional Record for historians and Americans to consult for generations to come. They spoke of being rushed from the floor and House gallery as the building was being breached. They spoke of the sight of guns being drawn by Capitol Police and the sound of a gunshot. And they spoke of the fear they experienced that day.

“We now have a Capitol ringed by these 7-foot fences with concertina wire. So the trauma that we’re feeling working in this sense of isolation is the trauma to our democracy,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. “Our goal, our responsibility is to restore that and not be defeated.”

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WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE SOLDIERS IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL?

There are currently about 7,000 National Guard members in the city providing security. That number is expected to slowly go down to 5,000, and they are set to stay until about mid-March. The total cost for the deployment is expected to be close to $500 million.

At the high point just before the inauguration, there were more than 26,000 Guard troops in the city, and they came from the 50 states and U.S. territories. A number of states ordered home their service members shortly after the Jan. 20 inauguration when troops complained of poor food and were forced to take their rest breaks in a Capitol Hill garage. Those conditions were quickly improved.

Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said many troops left after the inauguration and states replaced them with fresh forces. That probably will happen over the next several weeks, allowing Guard members to return home to their jobs, while others take their place,

Twelve Guard members were either sent home or not allowed to deploy to the District of Columbia as a result of FBI security checks, including some who had ties to extremist groups. Defence officials have said they don’t have details on the results of those cases.

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IS THAT FENCE AROUND THE CAPITOL COMING DOWN ANY TIME SOON?

It’s unclear how long an extended perimeter of razor-wire topped fencing will surround the Capitol grounds. But many lawmakers are growing tired of it.

More than 40 Republicans signed onto a letter Friday calling on Pelosi to remove the fence and arrange for thousands of National Guard troops to go home. The lawmakers said they were concerned about reports the fencing may be made permanent.

“It’s time for healing and it’s time for the removal of the fencing so the nation may move forward,” the letter read.

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