There were few signs of the chaos from the day before outside the US Capitol on Thursday morning. A small crowd gathered behind a newly erected security fence, which was absent when thousands stormed the building and laid siege to the heart of American democracy.
A handful of locals had come to stare at the grand domed building, as if to check it was still there. Others, some with flags or hats bearing Donald Trump’s name, had come to relive the day before, when they had it to themselves.
“We were up there,” said Mike Walls, cheerfully, as someone took a picture of him and his family with the building as a backdrop. “Drain the swamp, that’s all we want,” he added.
As lawmakers from both sides of the aisle rushed to condemn the actions of the mob, and Democratic leaders called for the removal of the president for his role inciting them, there was little sign of regret from those who had taken part.
“Yesterday was awesome. A bunch of friendly, peaceful people… went inside their building,” Mr Walls said, reflecting on the day’s events.
“As many taxes I’ve paid throughout my life, I own a lot of that building. It’s my building. This is my sidewalk. This is my country. And they took it away from us yesterday,” he added, referring to the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
Theresa Hall, who accompanied Mr Walls as they surveyed the scene, said there was a double standard at play with the reaction to the riot at the Capitol. She also justified the attack by repeating a slew of conspiracy theories about the election regularly promoted by Donald Trump.
“You have Antifa and BLM who terrorise this country for three solid months. They killed people. People who were store owners. They looted and burned and murdered — BLM. Those groups are funded by very powerful people: George Soros. China,” she said.
“What happened yesterday was unfortunate, but it is what it is. Because you’ve got angry people. A second grader could do the math. If you take the legal amount of people that vote, and the amount of votes cast, it doesn’t add up. More people voted than we have to vote. So what happened yesterday is because of the Democratic Party,” she added.
In the eyes of those who took part, and those who supported the mob from afar, they were justified because a far greater crime had taken place: the theft of the election from Mr Trump by Republican and Democratic state election officials, federal courts, the Supreme Court and China. They held this belief despite the fact that every attempt to overturn the result in court has failed due to lack of evidence.
Ms Hall is not the only one who has been fuelled by conspiracy theories. The storming of the Capitol was a culmination of a nearly year-long campaign by the president to undermine the integrity of the election by spreading the falsehood that it was rigged. Even before a vote had been cast, Mr Trump was questioning the validity of the results, and refusing to agree to a peaceful transfer of power.
As he took to the podium on Wednesday morning, he told a crowd of tens of thousands that their country was being stolen from them. He directed them towards the Capitol building, just a mile down the road, where Congress would soon be certifying Mr Biden’s election victory. That is when the chaos unfolded.
Mr Trump’s incitement drew condemnation from both parties over the last 24 hours. During that time he has reportedly become ever more isolated in the White House, and several of his key staff have resigned.
For residents of the city where the attack transpired, there was a mixture of shock and anger. Not a few metres away from where the Trump supporters gathered, Stan Nowakowski and Maura Szhwartz had paused on their bikes, in full reflective cycling gear and helmets, to gaze up at the Capitol. They had watched with horror as the events unfolded in their hometown.
“We turned on the television about one o’clock to watch the proceedings and it just all went downhill. I felt disgusted that it would come to this,” said Mr Nowakowski.
“I felt disgusted that it would come to this. It really wasn’t right. The people in the Capitol were just trying to do their constitutional duty,” he added.
As residents of the capital city, they are used to seeing protests. But this one was different, they said. Ms Szhwartz described it as an “insurrection,” and said there was a direct line between the White House and the events on Capitol Hill.
“I think you would have had to be blind and deaf if you didn’t have an expectation that something was going to happen here yesterday. It’s been brewing for months. You had to have expected it given the rhetoric that was coming out of this administration for the last 12 months in anticipation of the election,” she said.
“I think to the rest of the world it’s a real show of the demise of democracy that this was allowed. And I just feel like my flag has been co-opted by an alt-right movement that does not represent over 50 percent of this country,” she added.
As she spoke a man walked past shouting “Fuck the media,” and “four more years!” several times.
Since losing the election in November, Mr Trump has ramped up his efforts to create an alternate reality for his supporters, one in which the events of yesterday were a righteous act, rather than a criminal one.
There were few signs that the events of Wednesday would shake anyone out of this alternate reality.
Ricky Anderson, a 64-year-old who came from Texas for Wednesday’s protest, didn’t take part in the violent part of yesterday’s events, and didn’t condone it, but he said he understood why it happened.
“It happened because we feel like our government sold us out. They talk about us breaking the law, and then they sit there and break the law. Obviously the laws were broken with voter registration and voter fraud across the country. And they just sit on their hands,” he said.
“We are tired of them feeding themselves. They are supposed to be representing us,” he added.
With Mr Trump due to depart the White House in two weeks, many have questioned what will happen to the movement he has created when he is no longer president. The storming of the Capitol appeared to be a wake up call for many Republican leaders who had indulged Mr Trump’s bogus claims in an effort to hold the party together.
But Mr Anderson said it was just the beginning, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if a new party came out of the chaos — one focused on rooting out what he saw as corruption in the system.
“This was the start. It will grow from here,” he said. “Our generation was sitting on the couch enjoying life until this all came about. But we’re not going to sit on our couch and watch them steal our country. This is our country. Our ancestors died in wars to protect it.”
There were others who were far less reasonable. Charles, who only gave his first name, and came from Florida for the protest, gave an altogether darker prediction — one that many have made over the past few days.
“I don’t condone violence at all, but I believe what happened yesterday was necessary. Because the greatest election fraud in history was committed and this affects the world. People are angry and upset because no one is on our side,” he said.
“Quite honestly, and I don’t support violence, but it’s going to have to come to a civil war. And it’s not me, I’m not going to pick up a gun and come marching down here, but a lot of people are because there’s no other recourse."
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