Yesterday, a mob of election protesters descended on the U.S. Capitol building, tearing down barriers and forcing entry as the House and Senate convened to certify the 2020 presidential results.
One woman, a retired Air Force Veteran, was shot and killed while attempting to climb through a barricaded door, and three others died from separate “medical complications,” according to the D.C. Chief of Police.
As both chambers were put on lockdown and staff members evacuated from the premises, social media was flooded with footage of rioters roaming freely through the Capitol, vandalizing busts in Statuary Hall, breaking glass display cases, and even rummaging through the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Though the building was soon secured, with protesters arrested or removed, many Americans were left wondering: where’s all the security?
The answer is complicated.
Ahead of the protest, federal authorities reportedly wanted to maintain a “minimally visible presence” to “avoid inflaming tensions,” after months of violent protests and riots in cities across America.
Despite advanced knowledge of the impending protest, United States Capitol Police — the federal law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the complex — declined to request additional support ahead of time from the Department of Homeland Security, according to one senior official.
As a result, Capitol Police Officers, most without riot gear or other protective equipment, were left largely alone for over an hour.
While it remains unclear how many were on duty Wednesday, the entire Capitol Police force is comprised of just 1,900 officers, leaving those tasked with defending the grounds vastly outnumbered as rioters approached.
The lack of manpower was evident in footage posted to Twitter which appeared to show the moment rioters first breached the perimeter set up by Capitol Police. A small group of officers initially managed to hold off the mob, tackling a few individuals who jumped over the portable fencing, but were soon overrun as the number of rioters surged.
Similar scenes played out at barriers and entryways across the Capitol grounds, as outnumbered Capitol Police officers attempted in vain to hold back the mob.
Terry Gainer, the former Capitol Police Chief, told NPR, “we lost control of the steps and the areas around the exterior of the Capitol where the skin of the Capitol can be a bit more vulnerable because we don’t anticipate that vigilantes and riotous people are up there that close.”
Following a three and a half hour shutdown, the Capitol was eventually secured once National Guard reinforcements were mobilized by the city’s mayor.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “optics” were the main reason National Guardsmen weren’t closer to the Capitol grounds to begin with. “They wanted to avoid the optics of having any U.S. military personnel on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and ordered the officers to avoid straying east of 9th Street in downtown Washington, blocks from the Capitol grounds, officials said.”
As the dust settled on Wednesday evening, some members of the law enforcement community blamed Capitol Police for not taking the threats more seriously ahead of time.
“They knew this group was coming, they knew it was going to be enormous, but they didn’t do any preparation,” said Timothy Dimoff, a former SWAT team member who now operates an independent security consulting company.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), chair of the committee which funds the Capitol Police, appeared to call Wednesday evening for the firing of some within the force.
“It’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon,” he said, before calling out the department’s “lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur.”
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, was hesitant to make similar calls, saying, “we won’t know until it’s over… you don’t analyze a battle while in the middle of it,” before calling the storming of the Capitol a “national disgrace.”
Cabot Phillips is Managing Editor of The Daily Wire’s Readers Pass. Follow him on Twitter at @cabot_phillips
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.