Chilling video captured by a New Yorker reporter circulating online shows a complicated mix of preparation and spontaneous violence during a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, political violence expert Robert Pape said Sunday.
Luke Mogelson, a veteran war correspondent and contributing writer for the outlet, followed rioters inside the building and documented the chaos. The insurrection was triggered by supporters of President Donald Trump who believe his false claim that he won the election. Trump spoke at a rally earlier in the day and encouraged his followers to flock to the Capitol.
The video captures rioters hunting for lawmakers and, finding none, photographing documents as “evidence,” said Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats. Pape said some individuals, particularly those giving orders, may have had military, law enforcement or “quasi paramilitary” training.
He specifically pointed to a man carrying zip ties and wearing military fatigues, later identified as Larry Rendall Brock Jr., a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who appeared to be giving commands to other rioters in the video. Brock Jr. was later arrested and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to The New Yorker.
“There seems to be some members of the rioters who are more prepared, and others who seem to be responding in a more spontaneous way and taking orders from those who are more prepared,” he said.
Mogelson said the crowd did not seem to have a plan beyond finding lawmakers and had they been successful bloodshed was possible.
“I did not see anything inside the Capitol that would conclusively indicate some kind of overarching, orchestrated plan,” he said. “I mostly saw the opposite.”
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In the footage, the crowd is seen pushing past police officers, some in riot gear, and entering the Capitol through a shattered window. Mogelson said rioters outside the building were “extremely violent and extremely hostile” toward police, but once they breached the building they were much friendlier.
Inside, the large group can be seen confronting several Capitol police officers and demanding to be let through.
“You’re outnumbered,” one man said. “We are listening to Trump – your boss.”
The crowd moves up a set of stairs chanting “treason” and roams the hallways banging on doors. The footage then shows a group entering the empty Senate chambers, demanding to know where the lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are.
Some in the crowd seemed to be threatening Pelosi, and Mogelson reported that the crowd chanted “Hang Mike Pence” in reference to the vice president.
Some people began taking photos of documents and one man said he was trying to find something that he could “use against these scumbags.” The group finds papers related to Sen. Ted Cruz’s objection to counting electoral votes in Arizona and after some confusion, one concludes “he’s with us.”
“I think Cruz would want us to do this, so I think we’re good,” another said.
Cruz, R-Texas, was one of six lawmakers, including Josh Hawley of Missouri, who objected to the counting of Arizona’s electoral votes during a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes and certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Cruz was trying to create a commission to audit election results, despite the fact that the Justice Department found no widespread voter fraud.
Pape said these scenes reminded him of the recently foiled plot to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. He said the extremists involved in that plot wanted to collect evidence to hold a trial before executing Whitmer and the rioters at the Capitol may have had similar intentions.
As rioters continue to rifle through desks, QAnon supporter Jake Angeli of Phoenix can be seen in the background yelling while wearing a fur hat topped with buffalo horns and wielding a spear. Angeli was arrested and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to the Justice Department.
Later, Angeli can be seen taking photographs in Pence’s chair and being confronted by a Capitol Police officer. He leaves a note for Pence that reads “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming” before leading a group in a prayer.
Police then escort some rioters from the building, and Mogelson moves to another entrance where an angry crowd is chanting an anti-police slogan before getting hit with what appears to be a chemical irritant.
Police push the crowd back and several people can later be seen smashing Associated Press camera gear.
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“Start making a list, put all those names down, and we start hunting them down one by one,” someone screams.
Mogelson said he wasn’t surprised to see the escalation in violence given the “level of impunity” law enforcement had given to extremist violence during two previous pro-Trump marches in November and December.
“The most surprising thing wasn’t the violence and the hatred and the buffoonery and the ignorance and the mob mentality,” he said. “It was just seeing it be directed at the U.S. Capitol.”
He said he started filming so that he could accurately describe the scene later in his written report and typically, he would not release such footage.
“It was a tough call,” he said. “We decided that the footage in question had unique historical value that the American people deserved to see.”
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg