Madness on Capitol Hill

It was 5 p.m. when the explosions began one after the other, washing the crowd of Donald Trump supporters in flags of tear gas. For hours these protesters had swam and trampled on the steps of the Capitol. They had torn down barricades and forced them into the Capitol rotunda, forcing members of Congress and staff to seek refuge. But now there were explosions and the protesters ran. They choked in tear gas.

Protesters had traveled to Washington DC from across the country to support a defeated president’s feverish dream that he had actually won the 2020 election. Earlier that day, at the Save America Rally in the White House, Trump himself encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol. They hoisted a wide variety of flags: American flags, Confederate flags, and Trump 2020 flags; The Christian flags, QAnon flags and Don’t Tread on Me flags. They carried signs – “FUCK YOUR FEELINGS”; “GOD, GUN & TRUMP”; “STOP THE STEAL” – and some carried guns.

Here’s what I saw on Wednesday walking from where I lived in northwest Washington to the United States Capitol starting around 3:00 p.m.

On their way south to 14th Street, a commercial corridor full of shops and restaurants, Trump protesters were difficult to spot if townspeople stormed around before 6:00 p.m. citywide curfew. Then a couple of people came with the flags rolled up. A MAGA hat here, a blood-red Keep America Great hat there. It was south of Thomas Circle that DC became Trump Land. Outside a luxury hotel, a white woman in a jeweled Trump hat and yoga pants asked a black hotel employee where she could get a taxi. “I don’t think you’re going to be lucky with this now, ma’am,” she was told.

For some demonstrators, the mood was tense. “That’s wrong, no, no, no!” A man in black was calling on a phone. “I’m not trying to destroy the country, I’m trying to save the future!” On the news, anchors and experts warned that individuals involved in the Capitol attack were guilty of a federal crime and could be investigated by the police or the FBI. And so some tried to avoid trouble. “Okay, I think we’ve come far enough,” said a young man to his companions and scanned the mostly empty streets. “We’re safe up here.”

For many Trump supporters on 14th Street, however, it was time to celebrate.

“I’m ready for a daiquiri!” said a woman in Trump outfit who appeared to be in her forties. A group of friends cheered in approval.

MAGA-clad demonstrators formed an orderly line in front of a liquor store. Inside, it was full and shoppers struggled to manage both their flags and select libations. “Gosh, if we kill a fifth of bourbon tonight,” said a man with a thin blue line, “it will be a tough drive home tomorrow.”

One block south, at Freedom Plaza, the crowd ballooned and the anger grew stronger. “Who here thinks the DC police will actually enforce the curfew tonight?” A protester called into a megaphone. It was answered aloud Boos. “You are not a real police force,” the man continued. “You are security for Washington!”


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