Many of the rioters who invaded the Capitol on January 6th recorded themselves. Not only did they take photos and videos, they posted them on YouTube. One such video shows the storming of the Capitol, from breaching the gates to the shooting of Ashli Babbitt. It is valuable to watch, because it is unedited. You can get a good sense of the chaos inside the building and the mood of the mob.
The man recording the video talks incessantly. He makes it clear that he is one of the rioters. “We did it! We’re gonna burn this shit down!” he says several times. “Let’s just fight this fuck,” he says when the police block the mob. In his interactions with police, he appears reasonable, telling them to stand back because they are going to “get hurt.” When police confront him, he says he is only recording. “Freedom of the press,” he says. Except he is not with the press. He is one of the mob.
Moments later, he follows a group that is shouting, “Stop the steal! Stop the steal!” He says, “Treasure this moment” as they pass through the National Statuary Hall. When the mob is confronted by police, they yell, “They’re all fucking government! Fuck the blue!” One woman screams, “Fuck your uniform!”
The mob pushes through the police and advances to the Speakers Lobby, the corridor leading to the House Chamber where the certification is being held. “We’re coming for you!” yells the crowd, echoing Trump in his recent speech. Police stand in front of the doors, blocking the entrance. The doors are locked. “Break it down!” the mob yells. “I have a knife,” the man doing the filming says, helpfully.
At first the police hold the line, and then, inexplicably, they stand aside while the mob breaks through the windows on the doors. You can see a Secret Serviceman pointing his gun through the shattered glass. “There’s a gun! He’s got a gun!” Then a shot, and Babbitt falls back. “I can’t believe I just saw someone die,” says the man, almost as impressed by this sight as he was by the dome above the National Statuary Hall.
What strikes me about this young man is his complete lack of awareness that he is involved in a crime. He is excited and very enthusiastic about the “revolution,” and completely unaware that he is in any danger while he is committing a felony. He talks to police, addressing them as “bro.” He says, “You’re on our side.” His ingenuousness, his utter lack common sense, is telling. He has no awareness that he or anyone in that mob can be hurt. “They’re not going to shoot us,” he says. That is the confidence that comes from following a president, the leader of the land, a man who represents them. That is the blindness that comes from following a cult leader. They have all swallowed the Kool-Aid.
You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4FY1g7Vyz0&bpctr=1610209778
Erica Verrillo is an author. Her books have been published by Random House and St. Martin’s Press. Her short work has appeared in over a dozen literary journals. She is currently finishing a memoir chronicling her two years hitchhiking through South America, during which she landed in the middle of Argentina’s Dirty War, in which 30,000 Argentinians were tortured and killed under the dictatorship of General Jorge Videla.