Conflicts & War

Eyewitnesses describe Capitol attack before Trump’s Senate trial

By Beatriz Pascual Macias

Washington, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- Holed up in his boss’s office in the US Capitol, Remmington Belford heard shouting and banging but had to turn on the television to find out what was happening: a mob had invaded one of the world’s most secure places and the instigator of the violence was none other than President Donald Trump, who is now facing impeachment because of his actions before and during the Jan. 6 assault on Capitol Hill.

He kept the TV volume at a minimum because, he said, just minutes before loudspeakers in the Capitol had broadcast a very clear message: “Barricade yourself in your office. Stay away from doors and windows. And please refrain from using electronic devices.”

Along with Belford was his boss, Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. Minutes beforehand, both had seen masses of demonstrators – Trump supporters, which Belford called “insurrectionists” – gaining access to the halls of Congress and, with no trouble, getting past the first security controls at the House of Representatives, an area with restricted access.

Clarke immediately said that they should return to her office and they moved quickly to do so, Belford said.

For hours, without raising the TV volume, they waited for the police and the National Guard to dislodge the attackers and prayed, asking God to keep the demonstrators away from the office, to make sure that nobody else was harmed and to end the mayhem as soon as possible.

In remarks to EFE, Belford admitted that he was terrorized and afraid that he would die that day.

It was Jan. 6, 2021, and during the morning Congress had prepared to formally ratify the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election victory of Democrat Joe Biden, and the only thing that had been expected was that a group of Republican lawmakers would oppose that procedure, which was only anticipated to last a few hours.

At midday, Trump gave a fiery speech from the White House and once again trumpeted his ongoing lies about the election having been “stolen” from him due to massive Democratic election fraud, urging the hundreds, if not thousands, of his supporters in the crowd to head to Congress and “stop the steal.”

“We’re going walk down to the Capitol … (Y)ou’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump stated to the crowd during the speech, and many of the demonstrators who have been arrested since then have pointed to his words, saying that they considered them to be a direct order from the president to take over the Capitol.

Obeying the president’s suggestion, the crowd pushed its way through all security controls around the Capitol and, without respecting the orders of law enforcement officers on hand to stop, burst through the weak police cordon to enter the building.

On the north facade of the building, some demonstrators used ropes to scale the outside wall, as if they could not use the wide outer steps, and others used various objects or brute muscle power to break through windows and doors.

From the upper part of the Capitol steps, a man victoriously waved a blue flag with Trump’s name on it. That was the signal that members of the mob had broken into the seat of the US legislative branch.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican-American, could see some of the demonstrators from his office.

Offices like Espaillat’s or the one where Belford had taken refuge are located in buildings next to the Capitol, which communicate with the legislative chambers via tunnels, some of which had been evacuated due to a bomb threat.

Very quickly, two police officers arrived at their offices and asked the congressman to accompany them to a “bunker-type place,” where other legislators were being taken. Espaillat refused – four members of his office team were with him and he did not want to leave them behind.

Leaving his office, Espaillat told EFE, would have been giving in to the mob and he said he refused to do that.

For the lawmaker, his office is a symbol of the responsibility he bears in representing his district and, in addition, it is loaded with memories: a black and white photo of his parents, a framed copy of the first bill he was able to get approved and a “baseball altar” with a pennant of his team: the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Republic.

Very simply, he refused to leave, but he admits that he was concerned. “Those guys came to kill us, to assassinate us here. No question about it,” he said, adding that he will demand that Trump be held to account for inciting the throng to the violence they perpetrated.

With the violent mob ranging through the Capitol halls, offices and chambers, the minutes seemed like hours, and the hours like an eternity. The authorities began to organize to send about 1,000 National Guard troops to the Capitol complex and, in the meantime, Trump’s supporters moved about within the Capitol as if they owned the place, taking selfies and other photos, one of them even mugging for the camera and sitting with his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, although Pelosi herself was in a secure location.

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