A violent crowd, incited by an outgoing President’s last remarks in Washington DC, stormed into the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. A joint Congress session led by then-VP Mike Pence was in the executive building, determining the electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 elections.
The protestors – deemed as Donald Trump supporters – vandalised the building for several hours and the lawmakers and staff had to be evacuated. This siege of the Capitol saw the mob of few thousands breach the police shields, climb over walls, break windows and enter into the Congressional offices – with weapons. Hundreds were injured and five were reported dead within the first two hours of the breach.
Only three months later, on April 2, a car rammed a barricade outside the US Capitol, killing one police officer. The driver of the crashed car emerged with a knife in his hand and started to run at the pair of officers. Authorities shot the suspect, who died at the hospital. The US Capitol complex was placed on lockdown after the shooting and staff were told they could not enter or exit buildings. The incident that occurred about 100 yards (91 metres) from the entrance of the building on the Senate side of the Capitol, was dismissed as ‘not terrorism’ but highlighted a reeling question – How safe is the US Capitol?
As the Joe Biden presidency completes 100 days, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package is already out and working. The Democratic President – following Franklin Roosevelt’s footsteps – plans to vaccinate 100 million Americans by April 30. The Biden-Harris White House has also proposed a stimulus plan to address several items raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. His plans on infrastructure and the environment fetched him a 59% approval rating, as per a study conducted by Pew Research Center. But the security of the Capitol still stands as a question.
The US Capitol has been attacked twice during Biden’s 100 days. Here is an examination of the two Capitol attacks and their aftermath:
- Capitol breach on January 6
After 209 years of the first attack (1812) on the US Capitol, the white-domed federal office suffered another breach as pro-Trump stormed in on January 6. The 45th US President’s ‘Save America’ speech is said to have incited the violence. The Aftermath of the Capitol breach of 2021, included actions at different levels. The breachers and Donald Trump were bashed globally for their part in this attack on ‘democracy’.
The Times of India went on to compare the mob with the white supremacist terror group Ku Klux Klan. Several members of the US Congress, including members of Trump’s own party, criticized him for inciting the terror.
The Capitol siege triggered the second impeachment of Donald Trump. A nationwide manhunt for the rioters was as the FBI aided by the Washington Police followed social media trails and conducted arrests. Trump was suspended from various social media sites, including Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Parler, the social media platform that was majorly used for organizing the protest, saw temporary suspension from Google and Apple. Its cloud computing services hosted by Amazon Web Services were terminated by Amazon on January 10.
Further, security measures were increased for the inauguration of Joe Biden as president. This included the deployment of the United States National Guard, with a security perimeter erected around Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a commission similar to 9/11 for investigating the events surrounding the attack on the Capitol. The incident led to the resignation of leading figures within the United States Capitol Police (USCP) and the Trump administration.
- Car attack on April 2
William Billy Evans, who had been a member of the Capitol Police for 18 years succumbed to injuries after a Noah Green rammed his car into the barricades and attacked the officers at the Capitol. Fresh from the attack in January, the Capitol was heavily guarded by the National Guard, but Green was still able to cause violence at not more than 100 meters from the building.
Identifying himself as a follower of Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, Green had taken on social media to talk about the difficulties he was facing during the pandemic, The New York Times reported. The messages were captured by the group SITE, which tracks online activity.
“To be honest these past few years have been tough, and these past few months have been tougher. I have been tried with some of the biggest, unimaginable tests in my life. I am currently now unemployed after I left my job partly due to afflictions, but ultimately, in search of a spiritual journey,” he wrote.
As a symbol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Evans – the officer who passed away – would be one of only six people who were not a public official or military leader to lie in honor in the Capitol.
President Biden and VP Harris expressed their condolences calling Evans death as an ‘ultimate sacrifice to protect the Capitol’.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was one of the first lawmakers to demonstrate support for the US Capitol Police. However, there was no mention of the fallen officer as the Republican leader tweeted before the announcement was made. McConnell wrote that he was “praying for the United States Capitol Police officers who were attacked at the Capitol”.
Tanvi Misra of the Curbed published a story on January 6, describing how tough it is to breach the Capitol. “The building is built like a labyrinth, the product of many iterations of rebuilding since the 18th century — a swirl of passages and hallways that revolve around the chambers where policy is hammered out and votes are cast. At a subterranean level, the building is connected by tunnels to the nearby House and Senate buildings where hearings are hosted and committees convene. If you haven’t worked on the Hill for long, it is easy to get lost there,” she writes.
But the fact is, the building was attacked twice in Biden’s first 100 days. A commission was appointed to probe the January 6 attack, Secret Service led an investigation as the FBI made several arrests. More than 2200 troops guard the Capitol, but its safety is still a concern for President Biden to ponder upon.