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VIDEO: Police Ambush Peaceful Protesters in Rotunda on January 6
Newly released January 6 surveillance footage shows how police turned a peaceful assemblage of protesters into chaos in the Rotunda.
A common theme in the official January 6 narrative is that police acted heroically that day and suffered violent, unprovoked attacks by Trump supporters for hours. While some officers undoubtedly displayed courage in attempting to protect the building and lawmakers as a handful of violent protesters assaulted them, officers in many instances were the instigators, prompting unnecessary physical clashes with peaceful Americans assembled in a public building.
Security camera footage shows how Capitol and D.C. Metropolitan police officers ambushed nonviolent protesters assembled in the Rotunda of the Capitol building shortly after 3:00 p.m. on January 6, 2021.
Cameras located at the north and south ends of the Rotunda capture individuals walking around the public area, carrying flags, and snapping pictures on their cell phones. It does not appear that any person is destroying government property or assaulting police. (Members of the Oath Keepers had just exited the Rotunda; a second group entered at around 3:17 p.m.)
At 3:02 p.m., about 15 minutes after Capitol Police officer Michael Byrd shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, a group of Capitol police officers entered the south end of the Rotunda and began physically shoving and grabbing people inside. One man appeared to be a senior citizen. Several D.C. Metropolitan officers, clad in head-to-toe riot gear, followed Capitol officers and helped push the group toward the north wall. (Law enforcement had used non lethal munitions, including tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades on a large crowd of protesters assembled on the west lawn of the building for nearly two hours by that point. Officers also deployed chemical gas inside the building right outside one entrance to the Rotunda; some individuals can be seen coughing and rubbing gas out of their eyes.)
At 3:05 p.m., a separate squad of D.C. officers charged through the east doors and physically engaged protesters including women. A minute later, officers dragged someone who had been knocked down in the melee. Several scuffles ensued as D.C. officers shoved, and in some instances punched, individuals committing no crime aside from a misdemeanor trespassing offense. Another individual can be seen lying on the ground after being knocked down by police. A small group of ATF agents and what appear to be FBI SWAT agents carrying rifles also entered the Rotunda:
Body worn camera footage from a D.C. Metro officer gives an eye-level view of what happened during the ambush:
Physical confrontations continued for several minutes. At no point did police appear to attempt to arrest anyone or guide protesters. many of whom had never been in the building, out of the area:
The conduct of D.C. police inside the Rotunda (and other areas of Capitol grounds) violated the city’s use of force regulations: “All members who encounter a situation where the possibility of violence or resistance to lawful arrest is present, shall, if possible, first attempt to defuse the situation through advice, warning, verbal persuasion, tactical communication, or other de-escalation techniques,” the department’s 2017 directive ordered. “Members shall attempt to defuse use of force situations with de-escalation techniques whenever feasible. Resistance and response are dynamic. The subject’s behavior and the use of force to control it may escalate or deescalate during any given altercation until complete control of the subject is achieved.”
More body worn camera footage revealed how officers escalated tension between police and protesters. Women can be heard screaming in pain as officers used batons to strike and trap people against a wall. “I can’t go anywhere!” one man yelled as police continued to shove protesters:
It is clear that police, on numerous occasions, did not follow proper protocol on January 6. The use of physical force and nonlethal munitions on protesters assembled outside who posed no threat of violence provoked many clashes on January 6. Not only was the aggressive behavior of D.C. and Capitol police inside the Rotunda unwarranted—completely catching people by surprise—but the building had been evacuated at 2:20 p.m. The individuals inside the Rotunda did not pose a threat to lawmakers or staff; officers should have guided people outside to clear the premises and allow Congress to restart proceedings.
It is unclear whether D.C. police officials conducted any use-of-force investigations related to the events of January 6.