Where are the police? Questions over law enforcement response to Trump supporters storming the US Capitol

Trump loyalists storm Capitol building in DC on Wednesday following wild rally for the president

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 06 January 2021 22:17 GMT
Moment pro-Trump rioters storm US Capitol captured on TV broadcast

As chaos erupted in Washington DC after Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, entering the building and interior chambers, social media lit up with one question - Where are the police?

It should be noted that developments at the Capitol are breaking, which means conflicting reports, rapidly-evolving situations and a level of uncertainty.

Here's what we do know:

There were at least three police forces present in and around the Capitol on Wednesday: The Capitol police, who are tasked with protecting the Capitol building and its grounds; the DC Metro Police, the city’s police force; and the National Parks police, who oversee public grounds including The Ellipse and Freedom Plaza.

It is not immediately clear if DC Metro Police or the National Parks police were involved in the defense of the Capitol building.

Reports from Will Sommer, a Daily Beast journalist, showed police from Montgomery County, Maryland, arriving at the Capitol to assist in putting down the riot.

Footage from journalists on the scene showed DC Metro police donning riot gear, presumably in anticipation of storming and retaking the Capitol building.

Video of the initial push of protesters into the Capitol building showed the Capitol police - which has 2,300 members in total, but it is unclear how many were on duty - being overwhelmed by the crowds of Trump supporters.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a district-wide curfew for 6pm shortly after the chaos erupted on the hill.

Video from the interior of the Capitol showed Capitol police ushering lawmakers, Capitol staff and journalists to safety as rioters breached the building.

Social media was flooded with criticisms of the police response, drawing comparisons to heavy-handed police and federal agent crackdowns on Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer. 

Others claimed the police - who have overwhelmingly tended to vote in favour of Mr Trump - were intentionally soft in their response. 

Martin Luther King III pointed out the disparity in response between the largely white Trump loyalists and the Black protesters involved in the Black Lives Matter marches over the summer. 

Writer Roxanne Gay said BLM protesters storming the Capitol would have been gunned down. 

“Always interesting to see how white protestors can encounter so little resistance and breach the capitol with the vice-president there, while black protestors would be lying dead in front of the capitol building right now,” she wrote on Twitter. 

DC police issued a statement during a press conference saying the Trump loyalists were using “irritants” - likely pepper spray or similar aerosol sprays - against officers and confirmed that a woman was shot inside the Capitol. Her condition is unknown.

During a press briefing, Ms Bowser and DC Metro Police Chief Robert Contee said anyone found on the streets after the 6pm curfew would be confronted by police. 

CNN reported that National Guard troops have been mobilised from Virginia and Maryland to support the Capitol police. The Secret Service is reportedly moving in to assist. 

FBI SWAT teams also entered the building shortly after 4:30pm on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Capitol police told CNN that law enforcement was “stunned” and “overwhelmed” by the Trump supporters.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in