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How Was Capitol Breach Possible? 'I Can't Figure That Out'

'We train and plan and budget every day, basically, to have this not happen'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2021 6:33 AM CST

(Newser) – The US Capitol was stormed by a pro-President Trump mob Wednesday in the first mass breach of the building since British soldiers burned it in 1814—and a lot of people are asking how it was able to happen. The Capitol Police force is being accused of failing to anticipate the breach, though former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis blames "a lack of political will to control an attempted insurrection," USA Today reports. "What happened here is a colossal failure, and I believe it's a colossal political failure, not on the part of the police," he says. "They were outnumbered and overrun." The mob stormed the building, forcing lawmakers into hiding, after Trump spoke at a nearby rally and urged supporters to march to the Capitol. At least 14 police officers were injured in the violence. More:

  • Former chief is mystified. Kim Dine, chief of the Capitol Police from 2012 to 2016, says he was surprised to see that people were allowed to gather on the Capitol steps before they pushed forward and overwhelmed police—and that they weren't arrested as soon as they entered the building. "It’s like watching a real-life horror movie. I mean, we train and plan and budget every day, basically, to have this not happen, Dine tells the Washington Post. "How it happened, I can't figure that out." A video that went viral appears to show officers actually opening a barricade to allow protesters to move closer to the building.

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  • Lawmakers promise an investigation. Lawmakers say there will be an investigation of the apparent lack of preparedness, the AP reports. Democratic Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief, said it was "painfully obvious" that Capitol Police were understaffed and didn't have a clear plan for dealing with thousands of protesters descending on the building. "I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force, that there would have been steps taken in the very beginning to make sure that there was a designated area for the protesters in a safe distance from the Capitol," Demings said.
  • Firings could be imminent. Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, the House appropriator in charge of funding the Capitol Police, said Wednesday that "it’s pretty clear that there are going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon." He said the breach was an "embarrassment" due to "the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur" and "you can bet your ass we're going to get the bottom of it," per Politico.
  • There was plenty of warning. While some law enforcement experts say it is difficult to tell when a protest could become a riot, there was plenty of warning that violence was likely on Wednesday, with Trump himself declaring that the day would be "wild," the New York Times reports. For weeks ahead of the date, members of online "Stop the Steal" groups discussed tactics, weapons, and referred to "occupying" the Capitol.
  • How it began. Politico reports that while most Trump supporters had gathered for Trump's speech at the Ellipse, small groups started gathering near the Capitol from around 9am, though fences kept them at a distance from the building. The crowd grew to tens of thousands after Trump's speech and hundreds, then thousands, pressed forward after supporters broke down metal barricades.
  • A "stunning failure." Ryan Cooper at the Week calls the breach a "stunning failure" and notes that there is "no doubt whatsoever that if, say, the Black Panthers tried something like this, dozens of people would now be dead, and hundreds injured." "This crowd probably didn't think they would get anywhere near as far as they did, but they will keep pushing until someone stops them," he writes. "In this case, the Capitol Police have proved they are not ready to defend the legislature of the American people."
(Read more Capitol Police stories.)

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