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Eyewitness account of the incitement at the Capitol

Especially in light of the ongoing blackout of all further information on the protests yesterday (“further” meaning “contrary to the media’s portrayal of the event”), this is well worth reading to the end.

From Joseph Billings:

Dear Mark,

I was in Washington, D.C. today filming the Trump rally and related events.  I also ran across your post concerning the Capitol demonstration tonight.  Perhaps this short account will help you assess what others are saying in a small way.

I was also at the Capitol before the crowd appeared setting-up my camera on a stone wall around the perimeter of the back of the capitol (the rear facing Constitution Avenue).  Then I waited for President Trump’s speech to end and for supporters to walk-up Constitution Avenue to the Capitol.  I was located at the precise location where supporters first rushed up the slope towards the back of the Capitol after casting aside a section of the first Capitol perimeter barrier.  Supporters gathered roughly at the center of the back of the capitol, but a circle began to grow around the perimeter as the crowd grew larger.  I had no sense that the growing crowd intended to rush the Capitol. 

After a large crowd emerged at the perimeter a man in perhaps his late 30’s or early 40’s showed-up, pacing quickly to his left then to his right before the crowd, and essentially began hurling insults at the crowd challenging their political wisdom.  He excoriated the crowd for thinking that their attendance would be taken seriously by members of congress.  (Hard to say that he was wrong about that, whoever he was).  I cannot recall his precise words, but for a very short period he engaged in a shouting exchange with supporters, and suddenly supporters pushed aside the first barrier and rushed towards the back of the Capitol.  Others on the northern edge of the perimeter followed suit.  But the first rush was right at the center of the back of the Capitol.  I followed the rush to the bottom of the Capitol back steps, and began filming again from atop an inner perimeter stone wall.   

The police, so it appeared, were a little surprised by the rush, and this gave supporters an opportunity to race up the steps.  One or two men even made it as far as the steps leading up to the scaffolds on the south side of the Capitol before police arrested them.  By this time, five or ten men had climbed to the top of the tall steel tower structure facing the Capitol.  Then the police erected and lined-up behind a new barrier perimeter at the foot of the Capitol steps.  Police at the top of the Capitol steps aimed rifles down on the crowd (perhaps rubber bullet rifles, I could not tell).  The crowd began arguing with police and pressing hard against the new barrier.  The police sprayed men pressing directly against the barrier with tear gas from time to time causing them to retreat.  Meanwhile, the men at the top of the tower began rallying the crowd to challenge the new barrier (over bull horns) by filling any gaps between the barrier and the stone wall that I was using as a filming vantage point.  Another man worked the crowd with a bull horn immediately in front of me and also encouraged supporters to climb over the inner perimeter stone wall (my filming vantage point) and create a wall of pressure on the new barrier at the bottom of the Capitol back steps. 

After about 30 minutes to an hour I dropped to the bottom of the stone wall to reload my camera when suddenly the barrier gave way and police attempted to fortify it by blasting tear gas into the area between the stone wall and the barrier.   I was hit by the gas myself and struggled back over the stone wall in order to breathe.  The gas threw many crowd members into a panic. And I was nearly trampled as I struggled to lift my camera and heavy gear bag over the wall after two women began pulling desperately on the back of my coat to pull themselves up and over the moderately high wall in retreat.

After the second perimeter barrier gave way, the men with the bull horns began working the crowd very hard to fill-up with Trump supporters the steps of the Capitol and the scaffolding on both sides of it.  At this point one of the calls, which the men with bull horns repeated from time to time in order to encourage people to climb the Capitol steps was “this is not a rally; it’s the real thing.”  Another frequent call was “its now or never.” After about a two hour effort peppered with bull horn calls of this nature the entire back of the Capitol was filled with Trump supporters and the entire face of the Capitol was covered with brilliant small and very large Trump banners, American flags, and various other types of flags and banners. 

Sometime after the rush on the back of the Capitol, people were apparently able to enter the Capitol itself through the front. But I was not witness to anything at the front or inside the Capitol. 

One clearly bona fide Trump supporter who had apparently entered the Capitol himself was telling others emotionally and angrily (including press representatives of some sort, even a foreign newsman) that he witnessed someone inside the Capitol encouraging violence whom he strongly suspected was not a legitimate Trump supporter (apparently on the basis that the man showed no signs at all of Trump support on his apparel).  I did not pay that close attention to his claims (for example the precise claim of the violence encouraged) because, naturally, I had not yet read your post and it had not occurred to me that professional outsiders might play a role in instigating particular violent acts in order to discredit the event. 

I overheard one Trump supporter (who followed the rush on the Capitol himself) say aloud, “I brought many others to this rally, but we did not sign on for this” as he watched matters escalate. 

Still, from my seat, I would say that large numbers of very legitimate Trump supporters felt that it was their patriotic duty to occupy the Capitol in light of their unshakable beliefs that (1) the 2020 election was a fraud, (2) that the vast majority of the members of congress are corrupt and compromised, and (3) that the country is in the throes of what they consider a “communist” takeover (although many use the expression “communism” as a synonym for “totalitarianism”).   They are also convinced that the virus narrative is a fraud and an essential part of an effort to undermine the constitution –in particular the Bill of Rights.  They have a very real fear that the country and the very conception of any culture of liberty is on the verge of an irreparable collapse.  For most (if not a very large majority) rushing the Capitol was a desperate eleventh hour act of partiotism –even of the order of the revolution that created our nation.  Some Trump supporters sang the Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs as others climbed the Capitol steps.  They also demonstrated a measure of respect for the Capitol itself.  I saw no attempt by anyone to deface the Capitol simply for the sake of defacing it.  

The incontrovertibly compromised press has called this event a riot.  But from what I saw and heard this would indeed be a gross and intentionally misleading oversimplification at best.  At least from the standpoint of supporters, if their Capitol event was a riot, then so was the Boston Tea Party.  It also seems to me that some professional help (very aware of deep sentiments) might have come from somewhere to make sure that the party happened.    

Regards,

Joseph Billings           

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