Where does the US stand one week after Capitol riot?

Joe Biden assumes office in one week and authorities are increasing security in the US before planned armed protests.

Members of the National Guard gather at the US Capitol amid the political fallout of the January 6 riot [Erin Scott/Reuters]

Wednesday marks one week since the United States Capitol riot and one week until President-elect Joe Biden assumes office.

Right-wing supporters of US President Donald Trump breached the Capitol on January 6, inspiring shock throughout the world.

Washington, DC remains on high alert amid continued protests and law enforcement continues to investigate more than 170 case files, which are expected to grow.

What charges are filed?

FBI’s assistant director in charge of the Washington field office, Steven D’Antuono, told reporters during a Tuesday afternoon news briefing that more than 70 charges had been filed against the alleged participants in the Capitol breach.

These ranged from largely misdemeanour offences like curfew violations charged in Superior Court of the District of Columbia to disorderly conduct and felony entry charged in the US District Court for the DC, where longer sentences are generally secured by prosecutors.

Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, speaks during a news conference at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2021 [Sarah Silbiger/Pool via Reuters]

Acting US attorney for the DC, Michael Sherwin, said at the news conference on Tuesday these charges are expected to grow into hundreds.

“Given the enormity of the actors we saw … the range of criminal conduct is unmatched,” he said.

Sherwin said a task force is engaged in investigating possible charges of conspiracy and sedition, which carry hefty maximum sentences of up to 20 years.

Though some alleged rioters have left DC, authorities have received more than 100,000 digital images and videos as tips and local field agents are able to apprehend suspects, D’Antuono said.

Who were the rioters, and how did it start? 

The thousands of rioters were overwhelmingly Trump supporters who arrived in DC from across the US for a demonstration that touted disproven voter fraud conspiracy theories claiming the election was stolen.

They listened to a speech given by Trump wherein the president said he wanted to march with them to the Capitol.

Democratic lawmakers have accused Trump of “incitement” in articles of impeachment introduced in the US House for this speech and other rhetoric.

Trump has said talk of impeachment before he leaves office is “dangerous” for the US.

Prominent figures in far-right and white nationalist movements were pictures inside the breached Capitol, including white nationalist Tim Gionet, who goes by “Baked Alaska”, and Jake Angeli, QAnon conspiracy theory adherent wearing horns and fur, whose legal name is Jacob Anthony Chansley and is reported to be a US Navy veteran.

Chansley was arrested on Saturday and charged.

Richard Barnett, the man photographed inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, was arrested on Friday. Barnett has described himself as a white nationalist on Facebook, the Business Insider reported.

Members of the hardline Proud Boys were also seen at the riot, and some were arrested, including leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, who was ordered to leave DC before the demonstration that culminated in the insurrection.

Tear gas is released into a crowd of protesters during clashes with Capitol Police at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results by Congress, at the Capitol Building [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

However, police officers, US military and even elected officials are thought to have been involved, along with numerous civilians.

Two Capitol Police officers, one who took a selfie with the attackers and another who put on a “Make America Great Again” hat, have been suspended. About a dozen more are under internal investigation, lawmakers have said.

An active-duty army officer has resigned pending an investigation into her conduct during the riot.

Republican state elected officials – Derrick Evans, former delegate from the West Virginia House of Delegates, and Pennsylvania State Representative Doug Mastriano – hyped the protest.

Will there be more protests?

Yes. The FBI has warned that armed protests are planned in all 50 state capitals across the US, and DC.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the US Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the FBI said in a bulletin sent to law enforcement nationwide that was seen by The Associated Press news agency.

The federal law enforcement agency is also tracking “various threats to harm President-Elect Biden ahead of the presidential inauguration”.

The bulletin also said additional “reports indicate threats against VP-Elect Harris and Speaker Pelosi”.

Where does security stand?

It took hours for the US military to respond to the Capitol breach, according to a letter signed by US Senators.

The lack of security for the US seat of government has raised questions about preparedness in case of further attempts to storm federal buildings and Biden’s inauguration.

Former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf signed an order on Monday saying he “instructed the U.S. Secret Service to begin the National Special Security Event operations for the 2021 Inauguration effective Wednesday, January 13th instead of January 19th”.

Trump, who has come under increasing criticism and political pressure since his speech before the riot, authorised a District of Columbia Emergency Declaration on Monday night which allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency” from January 11 to January 24.

Members of the National Guard gather at the US Capitol as the House of Representatives prepares to begin the voting process on a resolution demanding US Vice President Pence and the cabinet remove President Trump from office, in Washington, DC on January 12, 2021 [Erin Scott/Reuters]

Roughly 10,000 National Guard forces are set to provide extra security in DC ahead of Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

The National Guard, a branch of the US Army, will also assist law enforcement throughout the US, Army General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters on Monday.

“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close coordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera