Only now is the extent clear: the uprising has shaken the US Capitol to the core. There is anger against politicians who are now acting as Donald Trump’s heirs.
It took a few days in Washington to understand the full extent of the disaster.
This week I’ve spent time in the raided Capitol, talking to many there and watching new videos that found their way out of the niches of the Internet into the public. Everything leads to a conclusion that is as simple as it is depressing: it was all much worse.
The mob was more organized, more focused and better equipped than was assumed for days. He specifically had Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi in his sights, number two and three in the US power line.
There could very easily have been many more deaths. One group was only a few meters from the door to the Senate Chamber when it was not yet evacuated. Credit goes to a single black policeman who cleverly steered the angry crowd away from the front door. That’s one thing.
The other is a shock that I was only able to grasp this week in Congress and that I felt myself. An American colleague showed me her blurred photos of the intruders in the House of Representatives chamber. A press office employee reported how the mob pounded on the doors of the press area and handed out gas masks to reporters. His colleague said she could only watch feelgood films in the evening. None of them have ever struck me as faint-hearted.
One source I speak to from time to time to understand what’s going on in Congress was beside himself. The man is otherwise a sober guy. Now he said: “Just the idea that these assholes gave the mob another tour …” The swear word he used sounded a little harsher. It started with an F.
This sentence best illustrates the overwhelming feeling: In the Capitol you feel betrayed. Delivered to the knife by a mob, with active support from within our own ranks.
There are different allegations. Some Republican MPs are said to have shown later rioters around the day before – the contact man meant them with the F-word – several police officers are said to have kindly shown the mob the direction. Much has not been confirmed, but so much is clear: Republicans have fired the mob with martial words and, even at the moment of the attack, behaved in such a way that some felt betrayed a second time.
Only now do I have an inkling of the trauma that January 6th will cause.
Left MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reported how she was afraid for her life even in the secure room into which many MPs were led – because she feared that sympathizers of the rioters in the same room might reveal their whereabouts. She also spoke of “treasonous acts by the police”. Her close ally, Ayanna Presley, said she left the security room after seeing the “racists and masked opponents who started the mob” were there.
Marjorie Taylor Greene: Come to break the rules. (Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)
The Democrats didn’t name names, but included two MPs who were sworn in just last week: Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, who campaigned with QAnon conspiracy theories and refused to wear a mask in the security room. Or Lauren Boebert from Colorado, who insists on illegally entering the plenary with a gun and tweeted during the storm that Pelosi has now left the chamber – which was taken as a signal to the violent troops.
You came to Washington to break rules. Just like her role model Donald Trump.
Extremists, weapons, and then Corona – confidence in the Capitol has been shaken to the core. Pelosi had metal detectors installed on the doors to the chamber. Because some Republicans squeezed past it, there should be penalties in the future: $ 5,000 for the first offense. Similarly, but cheaper, mask refusers should be prosecuted. It’s only Republicans who defy these rules.
Nancy Pelosi and the new metal detector in the House of Representatives: $ 5,000 fine for the first rule violation. (Source: Erin Scott / Reuters)
During my visits after the attack, I was also shocked to find the Capitol. I like this lofty marble structure that towers over Washington. It is a wonderful place to work for a foreign correspondent. If you do something clever, you get access to politics, which does not exist in the White House. You can speak to the politicians, even at historical moments like an impeachment, to get a place in the room.
It hurt to see the shattered windows on the rotunda, the plywood panels, replacing the windows, the rubbish the mob left in the hallways of the Senate. And then it got surreal: This week, more and more National Guardsmen moved in, and on Impeachment Day on Wednesday the Capitol was half congress, half barracks.
I could hardly believe what I was seeing in the underground passages. Left and right hundreds of soldiers on the marble floor, automatic weapons leaning against walls and pillars, no camp beds, no blankets. The defenders of the Capitol: heavily armed, poorly supplied and a week late on site.
Are you interested in US politics? Washington correspondent Fabian Reinbold writes a newsletter about his impressions from the USA and the change in power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Here you can subscribe to the “Post from Washington” free of charge, which then lands directly in your mailbox once a week.
A trepidation, an indignation crystallized in the Capitol that can be felt all over Washington. The roadblocks are increasing every day. Many residents were afraid of January 6th and are now afraid of days around the inauguration.
Fearing new turmoil, Airbnb has been urged to cancel all bookings in the Washington area for these days. The National Mall, which was crowded with Barack Obama’s inauguration and fewer with Donald Trump, remains closed to ordinary citizens.
Five days until the change of power. Cross your fingers for us to keep it peaceful.