The chaotic federal response to the Trump rally Wednesday, which was overwhelmed by rioters who stormed the US Capitol, stood in sharp contrast to the heavily-armed presence of thousands of federal authorities during summer protests in Washington, DC, following the police killing of George Floyd.
Mobs broke through police barricades and rampaged through the Capitol, vandalizing offices and prompting the evacuation of lawmakers just after 2 p.m. ET Wednesday. By dusk, the building was still not secured and a woman had been shot dead.
“Everything. Everything went wrong,” one Capitol Police officer on the scene said.
The law enforcement response that allowed a typically heavily secured federal landmark to fall under attack, with rioters breaking through windows and into lawmakers’ offices and gathering places, came from a hesitant federal bureaucracy after early assurances from DC and Capitol law enforcement agencies. Agencies that had law enforcement that could help Wednesday waited to be asked.
“It was a mess. Nobody was communicating. No one knew what we were supposed to be doing there,” said one federal law enforcement officer who was dispatched to the Capitol.
The primary law enforcement agency tasked with protecting the historic building was the Capitol Police. Spokespeople for the agency have not responded to multiple inquiries from CNN throughout the day.
Justice Department officials were in charge of coordinating the federal agencies and US National Guard response ahead of President Donald Trump’s rally near the Washington Monument. Some organizers publicly said they planned to conduct a “wild” march to Capitol Hill as the joint session of Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden as the next president.
But agencies were waiting to be asked by other authorities to help — even as Trump’s election protest unraveled.
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