Thursday, May 23Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Coup of the Capitol

If you feel like you’re witnessing a still from the Hunger Games, you wouldn’t be far wrong. On January 6th, a riot of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC. The supporters gathered around the building in the morning, having flown in from states all over America. Trump has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t accept the result of the US election, where he has been voted out of the White House, beaten by Joe Biden who is to take his place on 20th January. Trump has repeatedly made comments about the integrity of the election results, where he has gone so far as to accuse Biden of rigging the election to aid his win. These statements have created much confusion and suspicion amongst his followers, who have been fed false information which led them to believe that Biden won the election illegally. 

The election process in America is a long and complex one, where the system doesn’t run on total number of votes, it instead relies on a process called the Electoral College. This is where each state is assigned electors depending on it’s size (California has 55 as a large state, but Alaska has just 3). The states then will usually give all its electoral votes to the candidate who won the majority vote in that state. This does mean however that candidates can become president by winning certain states despite not having won the popular vote of the people. These electoral voters also have the power to go against the people’s vote if they so choose. Counting all these votes takes a long time so that final results of the election may not be known, until at least a month after the official start date.

Why did they storm the building?

Many of the individuals who stormed the Capitol had watched Trump speak outside the White House, where Trump again states, ‘we will never concede,’ and told them ‘we’re going to walk down to the Capitol,’ and so they did. Riled up, the supporters rush towards the building where hundreds arrive outside, including those who are a part of the neofascist group Proud Boys, and the far right militia group Three Percenters. Many of them would go on to engage in physical combat with the police and fight with their own weapons.

The Senate was gathered in the Capitol at this point to formalise the newly elected Joe Biden’s win. It appears that the rioters were attempting to stop this from happening, by breaching security barricades and doing whatever they could to enter the building. 

How did it happen?

Outside the Capitol, police tried to stop protestors from entering by using tear gas and pepper spray, but this didn’t deter them. The protesters proceeded to rip down barriers, catching the police officers off guard and completely overwhelming them with the sheer number of them. It seems the police made little attempts to stop the protestors once inside, failing to protect the Capitol where the protestors were now freely reigning. 

Once inside protestors didn’t stop, they ransacked offices, broke whatever furniture they could, and stole anything they could get their hands on; letters, a lectern belonging to congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

Although many did manage to escape to safety, there were some politicians and staff still stuck inside the building at this terrifying time, where they had to barricade themselves into offices and hide for hours until it was all over.

Unfortunately four of the pro- Trump protestors were killed during the riots, as well as one police officer.

Who are they?

Around 120 protestors have been arrested in connection to the breaching of the Capitol, of whom many were longtime Trump supporters.

Here are some images of the most notable protestors. 

Jacob Anthony Chansley, center, a QAnon adherent known as the Q Shaman.
Jacob Angeli: Often attending Trump rallies in his signature outfit, of face paint and headdress, Angeli is a conspiracy theorist who believes coronavirus is a hoax. He has been arrested on the charges of knowingly entering and remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, and disorderly conduct.
Florida man arrested for stealing House Speaker's lectern during Capitol  riots - REVOLT
Adam Johnson: A stay-at-home dad from Florida, who stole Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and waved for camera. He has been arrested for theft of government property and on the same charges as Angeli, above.
A Trump supporter identified as Richard Barnett sits inside the House speaker’s office on Wednesday.
Richard Barnett: Pictured here at Nancy Pelosi’s desk, he left a note behind for her when he left. He turned himself in to the FBI and faces the same charges as the others.

Since the incident, Trump’s Twitter account has been suspended, cutting him off from his 88 million followers, as well as other social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and even Pinterest suspending him. It is unknown how long this suspension will last but in the meantime inquiries are being made into whether to impeach Trump earlier than the proposed date of the 20th January.