You’ve probably seen a lot of video of the storming of the U.S. Capitol by now, including video of Ashli Babbitt being shot. Until this morning I hadn’t seen this clip showing a massive mob of people trying to force their way into the Capitol through a narrow entryway. There are dozens of people packing this small space, police on the inside and rioters on the outside. What ensues is a pitched battle in which lots of people are getting hurt. If you were wondering how nearly 60 police officers were injured Wednesday, I think this clip explains quite a number of those injuries.
There are two versions of this circulating, a brief clip that shows the worst of it and a longer one (about 30 minutes) that shows the full confrontation. For those who don’t have 30 minutes to watch the clip below, here’s a description of what happened.
The police were refusing to let the mob enter and used pepper spray on some of those at the front of the line. Those who were hit retreated out the tunnel to the outside and new people pushed forward into the space they had vacated.
The mob took a couple of riot shields from the cops. At first they pulled them out of the hallway but minutes later they were passed back, over people’s heads and into the hands of the men at the front. The mob became more aggressive and pushed forward, but there was nowhere to go. More pepper spray came flying and one man in front of the camera said, “Go, we’re getting hurt.”
A cop at the very front could see people getting sprayed and unable to escape the tunnel. He turned to the officers behind him and said, “Stop the spray.” It’s a crazy situation but even in the midst of it, the police are still trying to prevent people from getting hurt. But that relative calm was short-lived.
Moments later the mob began another push. They surged forward. There’s one guy behind a door who was pushing on it, trying to shove the cops back. The police responded with batons and more pepper spray. Again, the people at the front retreated as the cops shouted “Back up! Back up!” The cops gained a little ground, forcing the mob back to an outer doorway.
The police almost managed to get the outer doors closed, but having them closed was of limited value since the glass has been smashed out. The mob became angry again and pulled one of the double-doors open. A man yelled, “We need fresh patriots at the front!” and a second man repeated it. “We need fresh people.” For a minute or two nothing much happened. Everyone seemed to be catching their breath. More rioters called to the massive crowd outside, “We need fresh people.”
And then there was another push. The rioters opened the doors and began fighting with the police. Someone in the mob unloaded an entire container of pepper spray at the cops.
The entire crowd of rioters pushed forward as one big mass. One guy with a camera decided he’d had enough. “I’m out, I’m out” he said before retreating. Someone else at the front shouted, “Liberty or death!” They were intended to be fighting words but the rioters seemed stunned by the combination of the pepper spray and baton strikes from the police. The cops once again pushed them back to the outer doorway.
At this point the cameraman was positioned very close to the front of the line. There was a lull in the action and we could see the faces of the cops up front. They looked exhausted. They were breathing hard. Their helmets were covered with orange pepper spray. Someone in the mob chanted “Traitors! Traitors!” at them.
Someone on the insurgent side tried to spray what was left of the pepper spray he’d unloaded earlier. A cop in the back responded with an industrial size mace sprayer. He shot several streams of it over the heads of the cops directly at the mob. The mob responded to that by creating a wall of stolen riot shields.
We’re now 17 minutes into this melee.
A riot cop up front saw a young woman trapped in the doorway. “Let the girl out,” he said to a man beside her. But the crowd behind the camera is shouting “Push!” “I’m okay” the young woman said. And then she added, “I’m pushing.”
As the riot cop grabbed his shield to push back you could see his knuckles were bloody. This has been a very physical battle and it’s still not over.
The cops once again pushed the mob out the door. And the mob once again called for fresh bodies to the front. At least one guy tried to appeal to the cops through their riot shields. “Just go home,” he said.
Someone else in the mob added, “get on the right side of history.” But moments later the same people were smashing into the cops at the front. The mob started shoving in unison chanting, “Heave! Ho!” There were probably 20 or so people shoving into the cops in the doorway. But the sound of the shouting attracted more people at the back who also joined in.
A young riot cop at the front got trapped in the doorway. He was being crushed by the crowd. He screamed for help with blood in his mouth. The guy on the insurgent side who was shoving him a second before started pointing him out to another cop. “Hey you, hey you,” he said, tapping the cop on the should. “He’s hurt. Let him back.” In the midst of this insanity, there’s still some humanity operating on both sides.
As the battle started to gear up again, the young cop in riot gear was pulled back. He got out. But the shoving match continued with both the cops and the rioters pushing in unison. People in the middle were being crushed. A rioter at the front suddenly decided he’d had enough. “All right let me out!” he shouted, but there was nowhere for him to go. “Let me out. Let me out,” he kept saying but the people behind him kept shoving forward.
After another five minutes or so, the cops finally managed to get everyone out of the hallway. They won the battle, though obviously it didn’t prevent rioters from entering the building in other places.
I only have two things to add here. First, this was as violent an encounter as I can imagine without the use of guns or knives. People were beaten, pepper-sprayed, crushed. This was brutal and really at odds with some of the images of people posing for pictures inside the building (like the guy with his feet up on Pelosi’s desk) as if this were all just a big joke.
Second, every cop who held the line and fought this mob back should receive a commendation. The fact that they stood their ground should be recognized, even if people in other parts of the building failed to do the same.
Here’s the full video.