Of the many strange things that went on at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 one of the
strangest, and most likely the proximate cause of the ensuing brawl that claimed the lives of Trump supporter and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt and Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, was the attempt to completely lockdown the U.S. Capitol.
The Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings have often been the locus of large demonstrations or the endpoint of large marches. Most recently, there were mass demonstrations during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings – indeed the Hart Senate Office Building atrium was “occupied” by anti-Kavanaugh “demonstrators,” but the Capitol, and the rest of the Capitol complex, including the hearing room, remained open.
Strangely, for what was arguably one of the most consequential joint sessions of Congress in the modern era, the House visitors gallery was closed and the Capitol was supposedly locked down – all without warning to the hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters who came to Washington to show their support for President Trump and to witness the final act of the constitutional process of choosing the next President.
Except the Capitol was not locked down – as you can see from this video – some doors were thrown open and all security procedures abandoned as the Capitol Police allowed people to enter the building carrying flags and signs. And as one can see in the video they did so in an orderly and peaceable fashion.
However, on another door an outnumbered contingent of Capitol Police officers tried to bar the door and keep the marchers (and the disguised Antifa agitators) out of the Capitol – with disastrous results, as you can see from this video.
The First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
What if, instead of barring We the People from “the People’s House” the Capitol Police had followed their normal procedures? What if the Capitol Police had respected the First Amendment as they normally do and passed everyone through metal detector and security scans, barred flags and signs on poles, prohibited anything that could be used as a weapon, inspected backpacks and purses and limited the number of people entering the building to its fire code numbers?
That the events of January 6 were a tragedy and a colossal breakdown in security is indisputable. U.S. Capitol Police Steven Sund is resigning, as are Paul D. Irving, the House sergeant-at arms and Michael C. Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, and lawmakers in both chambers and from both parties have vowed to find out how those responsible for Capitol security had allowed a violent mob to infiltrate the Capitol. House Democrats have also announced a “robust” investigation into the law enforcement breakdown.
In response to demands that the rioters be identified and punished, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has begun to announce indictments of persons who have been identified through social media and other means. However, there seems to be a major problem with their effort – some of those indicted appear to have been engaged in perfectly legitimate First Amendment activities and wholly innocent of any obvious crime.
One such individual is West Virginia House of Delegates Del. Derrick Evans who was expected to appear in DC federal court on Friday. According to a letter from Del. Evans’ attorney obtained by wvnstv.com:
…it appeared that the crowd was being allowed by law enforcement into the Capitol. He was not at the front of the group. Given the sheer size of the group walking in, Mr. Evans had no choice but to enter. Evans continued to ﬁlm once inside. His footage shows that members of the public were already inside the Capitol by the time he entered. Evans’ footage shows no riotous behavior taking place at that time. Protesters can be observed calmly walking around.
Upon entering, Evans observed a police ofﬁcer to his right, who was calmly standing watch inside the doorway through which he entered. No members of the protest were assaulting or resisting the ofﬁcer in any way. Nor was the ofﬁcer asking the protestors to leave. Instead, the ofﬁcer gave Evans a “ﬁst-bump” which can be observed on the video footage. This is consistent with Evans obviously having a belief that the crowd was being allowed into this public area of the Capitol at that time.
In another example of the indictment of someone who appears to have been engaged in perfectly legitimate First Amendment activities and wholly innocent of any obvious crime, Michael Amos, 38, of Naples, Florida was arrested and charged with unlawful entry of public property, according to court records from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Mr. Amos was arrested at about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Peace Circle, according to an affidavit. Peace Circle is a traffic circle, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, which is constructed around the Civil War Peace Monument.
There is no evidence so-far presented that Mr. Amos was doing anything other than standing around the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, where on any other day hundreds of joggers, tourists and sightseers would have passed without incident or notice.
Had the normal procedures for handling large crowds at controversial hearings been in place it is likely Ashli Babbitt and Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick would be alive today. If the Democrats intend a “robust” investigation into the law enforcement breakdown, and if the U.S. Attorney for D.C. intends to indict the alleged rioters, perhaps they should start by examining why the normal procedures to ensure that the First Amendment rights of those attending the January 6 Trump march were not respected and who made the call to lockdown the Capitol in the face of a crowd that had exhibited no propensity toward violence while those rights were being honored.
George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ.com worked at the U.S. Capitol complex for many years. A veteran of over 300 political campaigns, he is a member of American MENSA, and served on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle, as Director of Policy and Communication for former Congressman Adam Putnam (FL-12) then Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, and as spokesman for retired Rep. Mac Thornberry, formerly a member of the House Intelligence Committee and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
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