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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Chaos, Violence, Mockery As Pro-Trump Mob Occupies Congress

 January 7, 2021 at 10:17 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 The city of Washington, DC is declaring a state of emergency for the next two weeks in response to yesterday's riot at the Capitol DC mayor Muriel Bowzer is also calling for investigations into the police conduct. During the riot, the Congress must create a nonpartisan commission to understand that catastrophic security failures that happen at the Capitol on January six, 2021, both to hold people accountable and to ensure that it never happens again. We must also understand why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the protest over the summer than during yesterday's attack on Congress today in the Capitol building boards are being put up against shattered windows, debris, and damage from hundreds of rioters who entered the house chamber and various lawmakers offices is being removed and repaired. The FBI is asking for the public's help in identifying more of the people who took part in Wednesday's riot. So far, at least 52 people out of the thousands who marched to storm the Capitol yesterday have been arrested and four people died. One of the dead was 35 year old Ashley Babbitt of San Diego and air force veteran. She was shot reportedly after she entered the Capitol through a broken window. Joining me from Washington, DC is USA today. Reporter will carless who covered the riot and its aftermath will use to report for voice of San Diego and was a frequent guest on this show. And we'll welcome. It's good to talk to you. Speaker 2: 01:37 It's nice to be talking to you again. Speaker 1: 01:39 What is the atmosphere like today in DC? Are tensions still running high? Speaker 2: 01:44 No, not really. I haven't been out on the streets much, but my colleagues have, and it's really rather quiet. Um, my aunt, uh, colleagues who were at the Capitol today, they said that they're really ramping up security that already, uh, putting up, I guess, climb proof fences and taking other measures. But the town itself, the city itself is, is pretty quiet. I mean, it, it was under curfew until six o'clock this morning. Um, but most of the businesses appear to be back up and running and it seems to be, you know, pretty much back to normal. Speaker 1: 02:16 What kind of police presence did you witness yesterday? Speaker 2: 02:20 Uh, and astonishing? The small one, I think is the answer to that. I was like really shocked, not only throughout the proceedings, but really bright from the first moment when I arrived there. I mean, I've covered, you know, I've covered riots all over the place or, you know, different countries in the world. And, and when you, when you're at a federal building, which is housing, you know, the nation's lawmakers, you expect security to be extremely tight, extremely strong, and it's, and it definitely wasn't, I can't speak to myself to the contrast with the, um, you know, with the other protests, but there's been a lot said about it and I think it's accurate. I mean, it was just solely, solely, solely Speaker 1: 03:00 Where you and other reporters yesterday expecting a violent protest. Speaker 2: 03:04 I was certainly, I mean, I had been monitoring the groups that, that I monitor, which is groups like the 3% is the oath keepers, the proud boys. I mean, I'm an extremist and reporter and I flew here from California. So we knew that there was going to be extremist activity. We didn't, I didn't think any of us thought it was going to go this far. Um, but, but the two parts of it is like, did we know there was going to be violence? And did we know there was going to be violence focused on the Capitol building? And I think the answer to both of those, the first one is definitely, yes, we knew there would be violence. We didn't know exactly where it would be focused, but as soon as Trump had made his speech and I will add the camera guy that I was with, who's been reporting in DC for the last sort of 10 years or so he knew right away, he's like, well, they're going to go to the Capitol and they're going to try and disrupt the vote and looking back at it, it seems astonishing the obvious that that was going to be the focus of people's anger. Speaker 1: 04:02 Well, what is your sense of who these writers were? You mentioned a few names of organizations. Well, where were they affiliated with proud boys, you know, that far right organizations, or were they more like conspiracy Q Anon supporters? Speaker 2: 04:18 All of the above? Um, I was talking to a, uh, I was talking to an expert on this, um, just now, just before this call and she described it as sort of, you know, just this amalgamation of these different groups from all different corners. Um, but they, the one thing that they all have in common of course, is that they're all supporters of president Trump, but you have this enormous kind of just bringing together of all the, the sort of, you know, conspiracy theory people. So the Q Anon conspiracy theory, there were a lot of people, a lot of supporters of Q and on there, the, um, the militia movements that I, that I talked about earlier, there were a lot of those people, the proud boys were less prevalent than they have been in previous, um, in previous riots. But that's because they had made a measured decision to not kind of dress in the clothes that they regularly, where I've talked to sources who are really close to the proud boys. Speaker 2: 05:16 And they said, you know, that they were certainly out there, they just weren't as obvious. Um, but in amongst it, there were a lot of, you know, just everyday folk who are Trump supporters, um, you know, perhaps a lot more sort of conspiracy leaning, uh, Trump supporters, but, but a lot of regular Trump's supporters, nonetheless. And I will say, I did see a few people. We have talked to a lot of people who were unrepentant and I interviewed people who are unrepentant yesterday, but also I did see people sort of saying things like, what are they doing? This is totally against what we want and that sort of thing. So there was, there was some blow back like that. Speaker 1: 05:52 We've, we've all seen so many images by now of the writers inside and outside the Capitol, but I, you were there in person while this was unfolding. And I'm wondering, what did you see that we didn't, Speaker 2: 06:05 I, I mean, probably not much at this point, just because of the prevalence of cameras. I think it's more, the atmosphere that is kind of is very difficult to recreate. And I think what, what perhaps people don't understand is that as the, I did watch the initial sort of what I believe to be the initial breach of the, uh, of the perimeter security and the breach off onto the kind of Rampart of the building. Um, and what I think people don't realize is that, that front sort of front of that, where the first people flowed through there was that group. Then there was a huge crowd directly behind them, but then streaming in all the time, down the mall from where Trump had just given his speech where more and more and more people. So there was really just this sort of feeling of growing pressure of growing anticipation of growing force. Honestly, that was kind of coming down the mall towards the building. So it's, it's sort of, you know, all the pictures that you see of the people that kind of broke through. They're really just the tip of the spear in terms of the, the vast crowds that there were kind of going right back, um, right. The way up onto the mall. There were lots of people there, Speaker 1: 07:19 The house and Senate reconvened last night to confirm Joe Biden's electoral college victory. Can you give us a sense of how badly damaged the chamber that they returned to was? Speaker 2: 07:31 I didn't go inside the building. I'm a bit of a, I'm a bit of a worst when it comes to these things and I didn't, you know, I didn't want to get shot. And that was a very real possibility. I thought at that 0.2 Nikos one, one lady was shot and, and killed. And so I can't speak to the damage on the inside. I, I will say, you know, we could see broken windows, we could see the protesters inside holding things up to the windows. One of the things that really surprised me and I guess probably surprised a lot of people was, I guess I figured after this sort of insurrection, I figured they were going to kind of close the Capitol down and it would be closed down for sort of weeks for repairs before anything, uh, before anything happened again. And the certain, the supporters that I talked to last night with jubilant, they were like, we've done it. Speaker 2: 08:16 We've stopped the vote. We've stopped this from happening. And I was really astonished to hear a couple of hours later, like, Oh no, they're going to reconvene. They're going to go back in and carry on voting. And I think, I think that was enormously important to do. Not only because it sort of sends a sign that look okay, we're back in control. The government is still functioning and everything else, but it also sends a message to all the people who were part of that, you know, that riot, that insurrection that no, actually you didn't, you didn't win. You didn't, you didn't accomplish much really because the vote went on and, um, you know, the votes were counted and everything, everything is still the same this morning. It would have been, it was just delayed by a few hours. And I think that that was an important message to send. Speaker 1: 09:01 I've been speaking with USA today. Reporter will carless from Washington, DC will thank you very much. Speaker 2: 09:07 Thanks for having me on.

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“Where are they?” a Trump supporter demanded in a crowd of dozens roaming the halls of the Capitol, bearing Trump flags and pounding on doors.
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