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Capitol Police Were Reportedly Instructed To Take It Easy on January 6 Rioters

Pro-Trump rioters try to break into the U.S. Capitol as police hold them off with plastic shields.

A new report from the Capitol Police internal watchdog lays out the clearest picture we’ve gotten yet as to what went so wrong leading up to and during the January 6 riots. And folks, it’s not great.

According to Michael A. Bolton, the USCP inspector general, the department’s own intelligence unit, issued a warning three days before the insurrection that violence was likely, and that Congress itself would be the target.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, per the New York Times. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

Following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, some top security officials resigned but they have since claimed that there was no way they could have known what would have happened that day.

And yet, in that threat assessment issued three days before, they were told, “Supporters of the current president see Jan. 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election. This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent.”

They were also informed that maps of the Capitol tunnel system had been posted on online message boards, along with messages like “Bring guns. It’s now or never,” and “Overwhelming armed numbers is our only chance.”

Bolton’s report, which will be the subject of a Congressional hearing this Thursday, is damning and frankly embarrassing.

Things seem to have really broken down with the Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU)—the group that is specifically designed to prevent events like this one. Bolton wrote that the CDU was “operating at a decreased level of readiness as a result of a lack of standards for equipment.”

That lack of standards included a severe shortage of protective gear, along with other gear that was rendered useless by mismanagement.

“Some of the shields that officers were equipped with during the riot ‘shattered upon impact’ because they had been improperly stored in a trailer that was not climate-controlled, Mr. Bolton found. Others could not be used by officers in desperate need of protection because the shields were locked on a bus,” writes the Times.

When things started to get out of hand, the officers tried to access the bus but the door was locked. So they had to face the increasingly violent crowd without riot shields—or with shields that “SHATTERED ON IMPACT.”

Moreover, Bolton found that the CDU was explicitly instructed to take it easy on the rioters.

From the Times:

The problems were compounded when department leadership directed the unit not to use some of its most powerful crowd-control tools — such as stun grenades — that rank-and-file officers later said they believed would have helped fight the crowds that eventually overtook them and broke into the building.

“Heavier less-lethal weapons,” Mr. Bolton wrote, “were not used that day because of orders from leadership.”

Stun grenades—also known as flashbangs—have been frequently used by police at Black Lives Matter protests. Just this week, they were used on Minnesotans protesting the police’s killing of Daunte Wright.

Yet Capitol Police were instructed not to use them during a planned attack by violent white supremacist insurrectionists that left dozens of officers injured and one dead.

It will be very interesting to see what Congress has to say about this report tomorrow and if it leads to the kind of overhaul the CDU clearly needs. It would also be nice to know the who and the why behind these instructions to go easy on white supremacists.

(via The New York Times, image: Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.