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The U.S. Capitol on Jan 6





Planning the Attack

The attack on the Capitol on Jan 6 was an organized, coordinated attempt to flood the building with people and shut down the process of certifying the electoral votes. Planning for the Capitol riots began long before January 6th, 2021.


President Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal Rally was seeded with members of organized extremist groups (e.g. Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, “Groypers” from America First) who intentionally planned to transform a peaceful rally into chaos. These groups attempted to manipulate Trump supporters into joining them in attacking the Capitol through disinformation ahead of January 6th. Some people came to the Stop the Steal Rally prepared for violence, wearing helmets, tactical vests, and radios.


November 7, 2020 - December 12, 2020

  • Stewart Rhodes, Founder and Leader, directs the Oath Keepers on a private, encrypted chat to prepare for civil war in the days before January 6th, 2021

    • "We must now do what the people of Serbia did when Milosevic stole their election. - Refuse to accept it and march en-mass on the nation's Capitol."

    • "I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside, and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in armed, if they have to [...] We hope [the President] will give us the orders. We want him to declare an insurrection, and to call us up as the militia."

    • "It will be a bloody and desperate fight. We are going to have a fight. That can't be avoided."

    • "We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen."

November 9, 2020 

  • Jessica Watkins of the Oath Keepers plans the first military training in Ohio for "recruits." She wrote "I need you fighting fit by inauguration."

  • She and other leaders helped plan subsequent trainings in Florida and North Carolina. 

Where Oath Keepers recruited and trained for Jan 6

Days before January 6, 2021

  • Oath Keepers coordinate with Proud Boys on January 4th in documented text messages.

  • Stewart Rhodes purchases $5,000 in firearm equipment. He spends an additional $6,500 in firearms equipment in Texas and $4,500 in Mississippi while traveling to DC. 

  • Rhodes and other members stockpile guns and ammunition at a Virginia hotel. They are caught on camera bringing in large objects covered in blankets to the hotel, which they deemed the "Quick Reaction Force" or "QRF". 

    • "As we have done on all recent DC Ops, we will also have well armed and equipped QRF1 teams on standby, outside DC, in the event of a worst case scenario, where the President calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC. We don’t expect a need for him to call on us for that at this time, but we stand ready if he does (and we also stand ready to answer the call to serve as militia anytime in the future, and anywhere in our nation, if he does invoke the Insurrection Act)."—Rhodes

Google Maps directions from Comfort Inn to Capitol
Individual concealing a rifle in hotel hallway
Individual concealing a rifle in hotel hallway
  • Proud Boys equip all group leaders with Chinese-made BaoFeng radios, which are harder to intercept than normal walkie-talkies.

  • Leaders ordered all members to dress in plain clothes with tactical vests. 

  • Thomas Caldwell, member, completes a recon missions and sends out maps to all Oath Keepers to prepare for January 6th. 

Stop the Steal Rally Map and Weekend Guide
  • Planning began for a coordinated set of events to bring tens of thousands of protestors to Washington, D.C. in an effort to block the certification of the election. 

  • A March from President Trump's speech to the Capitol is scheduled with a "Wild Protest" planned on the Capitol.

  • Militias begin coordinating and planning to use these events and expected crowd to facilitate a violent entry into the Capitol and potential seizure of the Vice President and Members of Congress. 


  • Had President Trump's speech not gone so much over time, the crowd would have arrived at West Lawn of the Capitol at 1PM on Jan 6 when the first coordinated attack was launched.  Instead, police deflected the attack and militia groups move to the South lawn before the main crowd arrived 30 minutes later, buying important time for Members of Congress to evacuate.

JANUARY 5th 2021

8:14 pm

  • Unknown person walks to the Democratic National Committee building with a large bag in hand, stopping to sit a while on a snowy bench. 

  • The person in a hoodie proceeds down an alley to the Republican National Committee.

  • In the same locations where the person stopped to rest, the Capitol police discovered undetonated pipe bombs the next morning. 

Individual walks by Capitol Hill Club holding a bag
Map showing pipe bomb locations on Jan 6

Taking Position

On the morning of January 6th, would-be rioters staged themselves early. Many of them did not even attend the "Stop the Steal" rally, but instead positioned themselves outside the Capitol building. According to uncovered text messages, they went prepared for "civil war."  

JANUARY 6th: Ellipse Park


  • Protesters gather for President Trump’s “Save America Rally” at The Ellipse, a park near the White House in the early hours of January 6th.


  • Secret Service alerts that around 10,000 people are waiting to go through security at the park and “wearing ballistic helmets, body armor and carrying radio equipment and military-grade backpacks.”

Map of the D.C. Mall with notable Jan 6 locations
Protestors gather on National Mall

JANUARY 6th: Ellipse Park

11:00 am

  • Trump’s sons open the rally before Trump takes the stage. He speaks for over and hour, insisting that the election has been stolen. 

Eric Trump speaks at rally

12:00 pm

  • Trump finally begins his speech, an hour late. "We will never give up. We will never concede," Trump tells the cheering crowd.

12:15 pm

  • In his speech, Trump encourages attendees to “walk down to the Capitol.”

Trump speaks at Save America rally

JANUARY 6th: Capitol Building, East Lawn

11:50 am

  • Hundreds assemble on the East Lawn of the Capitol, over a mile away from where Trump is speaking. Among them are Proud Boys, identified by their orange hats. 

Crowd gathers outside U.S. Capitol
Map of crowd gathering at U.S. Capitol

JANUARY 6th: Capitol Building, West Side


  • Before Trump's speech concludes at Ellipse Park, people begin streaming towards the Capitol. 

Map of crowds marching to U.S. Capitol

12:40 pm

  • “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” Rhodes said in a Signal message to a group around 1:40 p.m.

  • A little later, Rhodes instructed the group to “come to South Side of Capitol on steps.”

12:54 pm

  • Protesters breach the South West Lawn of the Capitol and begin trampling over barricades. 

Map of crowds at U.S. Capitol
Rioters push barricade at U.S. Capitol

12:55 pm

  • The second barricade on the South West lawn falls. 

January 6th: Ellipse Park


  • Trump concludes his speech, " “...we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue...to the Capitol...to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."

January 6th: Capitol Building, West Side 



  • Rioter advance on the West side stalls with Proud Boys leaders on front lines. “Exodus 0.5” begins, an organized movement from West side to East side. Flaggers signal & people begin moving up the NW lawn, prepping to move East before retreating at 1:21pm. 


  • Lawmakers evacuated from Senate Chamber.


  • People from Ellipse Park begin to arrive. Proud Boys order group to "Push Forward" from Capitol Plaza. 

Lawmakers take cover inside Capitol
Map of mob outside U.S. Capitol

The Capitol Falls

Attack Launch

January 6th: Capitol Building, North West Side


  • The NW scaffolding are breached in a swift rush of the police line. People flood steps under the scaffolding. 

Map of rioters at U.S. Capitol


  • The NE barricades are breached. The Central East Plaza line is broken. The crowd surges onto the East plaza, quickly breaching the steps.

January 6th: Capitol Building, North West Side


  • The crowd breaks the police line on the NW steps and quickly ascends to the NW terrace. 

  • Signal: A yellow flag is hung off the NE balcony by the same person who 30 minutes later hangs an identical flag off the SE balcony following the breach of those doors.

Rioters scale U.S. Capitol


  • Rioter breaks window on NW side. Enters Capitol and opens door for people to stream into NW Courtyard door. 


  • Breach of NW side door. Simultaneously, initial intruders chase Officer Goodman up stairs on Senate side. 

Rioters breaching U.S. Capitol
Diagram of Inside of U.S. Capitol

January 6th: Capitol Building North East Side


  • Mob presses against NE side door trying to open it. 


  • Mob opens NE doors. 


  • Police manage to close doors again. 

January 6th: Capitol Building, The Crypt


  • Intruders reach the crypt and have a stand off with police. 


  • Mob breaks police line at the Crypt. 


  • Police retreat. Intruders head to Visitor Center and break into Rep. Nancy Pelosi's office. 

Rioters inside the Capitol
Diagram of Great Rotunda

January 6th: Capitol Plaza, NW Side


  • Rioters breach NW side of plaza. 


  • Center West Terrace door breached. Police retreat to Lower West Stairs.


  •  Trump tweets “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”


  • Police officers retreat to the tunnel. 

Rioters and Swat clash outside Capitol

January 6th: Capitol Plaza 


  • Shortly after breach and minutes after police fall back, red and green smoke signal is released from North West terrace. 


  • Rioters release an arial flare from East Side of terrace.  This was the 5th of the signals by rioters to others in or beyond the crowd following a new breach of the Capitol.

Rioters clime scaffolding outside the U.S. Capitol

January 6th: Inside the Capitol


  • Ashli Babbit attempts to climb into the Speaker’s Lobby and is shot. 

  • The first invaders enter the Senate Chamber gallery. 

Diagram of U.S. Capitol (inside)

January 6th: The Capitol Tunnel 


  • Police stop tunnel advance. 

Police Pushback

Police Respond

January 6th: The Capitol Rotunda


  • Police push intruders into Rotunda from all directions. 



  • Trump tweets, “I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! ... respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue....” 

January 6th: Inside the Capitol 


  • Police push people out of the Senate Lobby. 

January 6th: Capitol Tunnel  


January 6th: Capitol Rotunda


  • Police have cleared the Rotunda and pushed invaders into the lobby by the Central E. doors.

January 6th: Capitol Tunnel + Upper W. Terrace


  • Fighting resumes at the tunnel. 

  • On the Upper W. Terrace, a large group of officers push rioters back from NW Courtyard.

  • Crow continues surging at tunnel until 4:17pm. 


  • Police threaten lethal force. 

  •  Trump tweets, “This was a fraudulent election, but..we have to have peace. So go home. We love you; you’re very special...But go home..


  • Rioters realize Roseanne Boyland is trampled after the one rioter trips over her body while leaving the tunnel. 



  • Rioters drag Boyland back to the police for assistance.

Police Retake Capitol 

January 6th: North Terrace


  • Police from the W side start clearing the N Terrace, pushing the crowd east. 

Aerial shot of U.S. Capitol


  • Police fully clear the N Terrace, forcing a crowd with many militiamen onto the E. Plaza.


  • The angry mob attacks press in the North East Media Pen.

January 6th: Lower West Terrace


  • Police push out of the tunnel & begin clearing the Lower W. Terrace

Aerial shot of U.S. Capitol

January 6th: Capitol Building 


  • First National Guard troops arrive at the Capitol. 


  • Trump tweets, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”


  • Police & National Guard “establish a perimeter” on W side of Capitol.


  • Vice President Pence reopens the Senate. 

After The Attack



Both Republicans and Democrats have come out fervently denouncing the riots. 

“Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol… We condemn the violence that took place here in the strongest possible terms… To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins.”

—Vice President Mike Pence

“Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW. The Constitution protects peaceful protest, but violence—from Left or Right— is ALWAYS wrongAnd those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support.”

—Senator Ted Cruz

“United States Capitol Police saved my life. Attacks on law enforcement officers trying to do their jobs are never acceptable. Period. We can passionately protest without being violent.”

––Representative Steve Scalise

“Those who stormed the US Capitol today are criminals who must be condemned and denounced. They are not patriots. Nor are those who encouraged them.”

––Representative Tulsi Gabbard

rioters climb_edited.jpg



Four Capitol Police died by suicide in the months following the attack. Jeffrey Smith of the D.C. Police and Howard Liebengood of the Capitol Police, died by suicide within a month of the attack. Gunther Hashida and Kyle deFreytag, died by suicide in the months after defending the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. The widows are attributing their deaths to trauma and exhaustion suffered from responding to the riots and asking that more resources be given to police officers. GoFundMe accounts were set up to care for the families they left behind.

Subsequent congressional hearings attempted to understand the stress of the day and how it impacted officers. In one of these hearings, four officers described being attacked, berated and threatened with death by rioters, many of whom had weapons.


“I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm, as I heard chants of, ‘Kill him with his own gun,’” MPD Officer Michael Fanone testified.



Police officer Jeffrey Smith



Police officer Howard Liebengood



Police Officer Gunter Hashida



Police officer Kyle Defreytag


Since the attack on January 6th, 2021, 840 people have been charged for their part in the Capitol Riots. The FBI continues seeking the public's help to identify people who took part in one of the most documented crimes in US history


On January 13, 2022, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against the leader of the Oath Keepers, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, and 10 associates, charging them with "seditious conspiracy," the most severe charge levied against any of the alleged Capitol rioters so far. 


A full list of names of those who breached Capitol Building on January 6th, 2021. 

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