Capitol Riots: Where Things Stand Six Months Later

Published on: Jul 8, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Trumps supporters gather outside the Capitol building in DC on January 06, 2021. Getty Images

On Jan 6, as Congress gathered to certify then-President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol – scaling walls, shattering windows, breaking into federal offices, taking over the Senate floor, and stealing furniture. Videos show groups attacking the press and yelling an all-too-familiar message from then-President Trump: the media is the "enemy of the people." The attack on the Capitol left a handful of people dead and around 140 police officers injured.

The insurrection was the first major attack on the Capitol since 1814 – when the British burned it down during the War of 1812. Many blamed Trump, who for months rallied his supporters to believe that the election was rigged (despite evidence proving otherwise). He also made comments – both before and on Jan 6 – that were perceived as inciting violence (see: this and this).

It’s been about six months since the riots happened. Here’s what’s gone down since then… 

When it comes to arrests…

Federal prosecutors have said the Justice Department’s probe into the attack is “likely the most complex investigation ever prosecuted” by the dept. As of early July, at least 535 people have been arrested in connection to the riot. And charges range from disorderly conduct to assaulting a federal law enforcement officer.

At least 12 defendants have pleaded guilty. And in June, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, a 49-year-old woman from Indiana, was the first person to be sentenced on charges related to the insurrection – she pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and got three years probation. This is a sentencing trend that may continue: analysis from May shows that 181 of 411 defendants in federal court were charged with low-level crimes, according to the Washington Post. So they may not see any jail or prison time for their alleged actions that day.

But there’s still more work to be done. Officials are still searching for hundreds of suspects, including many who’ve been accused of attacking officers and journalists, as well as the person who planted pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC offices (the FBI is offering a $100K reward for more info on this person). A report from the Associated Press says there weren’t many arrests on the day of the attack because authorities prioritized clearing out the building – meaning they need to go back and try to track down suspects by sifting through footage and social media accounts. The FBI urges anyone who may know more about the potential suspects or who witnessed unlawful violence to report it to the bureau.

When it comes to Congress… 

Lawmakers have been busy investigating the Jan 6 attack. In June, senators released a bipartisan report that examined intelligence and security failures and offered recommendations. But they didn’t examine the causes of the attack.

In late May, the Senate blocked a bill to create a 9/11-style panel to investigate the riot (thanks to the filibuster). So in June, the House forged on and moved to create its own committee. The House committee has subpoena power and is made up of 13 lawmakers, including Republican Reps Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL), who have both been critical of Trump’s rhetoric. It’s unclear when the committee could wrap up its investigation, and what could happen as a result of their findings.

Meanwhile, on July 6 (the six-month anniversary of the insurrection), President Biden said the attack "posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive." And called on people of all parties to work together to "restore decency, honor, and respect for the rule of law."

When it comes to law enforcement…

The US Capitol Police is in charge of protecting Congress, members of Congress, and congressional buildings and grounds. And while a number of officers were on the scene for the Jan 6 attack, the department has been accused of not being prepared enough to handle the events that unfolded. Video shows how close the mob of rioters got to then-VP Mike Pence, as well as some senators. The day after the attack, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned. And lawmakers called for investigations into security at the Capitol.

One report from the Capitol Police internal watchdog found that the department was warned three days before the attack that Trump supporters were planning to target Congress – and that things could turn violent. The report also found that the Department of Homeland Security warned the agency that a map of the Capitol’s tunnel system was posted on pro-Trump message boards. It also stated that the department "did not have adequate policies and procedures" to respond to the insurrection.

On July 6, acting US Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman announced changes that the agency is implementing, saying it’s worked “around the clock” to improve security and support officers. She said the recommendations are from a number of reviews of the attack from a number of entities, including a US Senate committee, House select committees, the Government Accountability Office, and others. That includes…

  • Opening field offices in places like California and Florida to further investigate threats to lawmakers

  • Expanding wellness services by working with trauma-informed counselors, bringing in orgs that specialize in addressing psychological trauma and stress, and developing an internal peer support program

  • Working with the National Guard to increase training for the department’s Civil Disturbance Unit

  • Increasing trainings in areas like use of force, tactical, and leadership

  • Establishing a new action plan to quickly mobilize local, state, and federal resources (including the Department of Defense) to respond to emergencies 

  • Acquiring additional equipment like helmets, shields, and batons

Pittman said that the department honors “all the brave men and women who, against all odds, faced down a violent crowd that day and protected our elected leaders and everyone who was in the Capitol Complex.”

theSkimm

January 6, 2021, will go down as a dark day in American history. And six months later, the slow-moving wheels of justice continue to turn as Americans wait to see what happens next. Meanwhile, authorities are wading through one of the largest criminal investigations in American history – so it may be a while before all of the answers are on the table.

Skimm'd by Maria Martinolich and Kamini Ramdeen


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