Planned for Weeks in Plain Sight. The Police Weren’t Ready. PBS Frontline

Capitol Rioters Planned for Weeks in Plain Sight. The Police Weren’t Ready.

JANUARY 7, 2021byLogan JaffeLydia DePillisIsaac ArnsdorfDavid McSwane


The invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was stoked in plain sight.

For weeks, the far-right supporters of President Donald Trump railed on social media that the election had been stolen, openly discussing the idea of violent protest on the day Congress met to certify the result.

Yet for reasons that remained unclear Wednesday night, the law enforcement authorities charged with protecting the nation’s entire legislative branch — nearly all of the 535 members of Congress gathered in a joint session, along with Vice President Mike Pence — were ill-prepared to contain the forces massed against them.

“It’s not a spur-of-the-moment demonstration that just popped up,” said Larry Schaefer, a 34-year Capitol Police veteran who retired in December 2019 and was mystified by the scene he watched unfold on live television. “We have a planned, known demonstration that has a propensity for violence in the past and threats to carry weapons — why would you not prepare yourself as we have done in the past?”

Read our full story with ProPublica, part of an ongoing collaboration that includes an upcoming documentary, and stay tuned for more on-the-ground reporting as our team continues to follow the story.

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