When I was a boy I liked to climb — out the window onto the roof, up a big pine tree, down the laundry chute. I was reminded of that when I saw the boys scaling the ramparts of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
When I was a boy I liked to put on costumes — a cowboy suit with two toy six-guns, for instance. I was reminded of that when I saw the boys in their pseudo body armor and Trump paraphernalia overpowering the Capitol Police at the Capitol building.
When I was a boy I loved pretend play and can remember getting lost in a fantasy world of tiny toy trucks and bulldozers. I was reminded of that when I saw the boys enthralled with Donald Trump shouting slogans like “Stop the Steal.”
To me, what turned out to be a mob seemed to be comprised of boys — big boys, dangerous boys, Proud Boys, if you will — but essentially children whether they were 18 or 45 or 70.
These were people play acting, I realized. They had gotten their gear together and joined their friends on bus trips or plane rides to Washington to participate in the long-planned demonstration that President Trump promoted in a last-ditch effort to reverse his re-election loss.
I don’t think any of them actually thought they would be able to invade the Capitol building. There were predictions they would battle leftist demonstrators but that never came to pass.
So instead they stormed the Capitol. As all the media reported, the Capitol Police were the lone defenders. These are mostly show cops who provide security for members of Congress, congressional staff and visitors touring the building.
They are not a tactical force. They were outnumbered and in any case no match for the demonstrators who confronted them with poles and pipes. Calls for reinforcements from the municipal police of Washington, D.C., and the National Guard came too late to prevent the breach.
Once they had been overpowered, the Capitol Police retreated up the steps, making it incredibly easy for the demonstrators to enter the building and disrupt the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes to formalize Joe Biden’s election win.
The highest officials of both chambers feared mayhem, even mass shootings, and went into lockdown. Meanwhile, people around the globe could see in real time the assault on the government of the world’s preeminent democracy.
After getting inside the building the demonstrators were at a loss on what to do. Many seemed to spend their time taking selfies, showing off, vandalizing offices and scuffling with officers. To them this was a lark, hardly a coup d’etat. Still, the violence did result in two deaths within the building — one of the law-breaking rioters and as well as a Capitol police officer. Three others died outside.
It took law enforcement over four hours to clear the building. They took few of the invaders into custody. Initial charges were for curfew violations and unlawful entry of public property but more arrests and bigger charges have followed.
The finger pointing began even before the demonstration was over. The Capitol Police force was blamed for both succumbing to a superior force and for not preparing for what happened even though violence had been openly promoted on websites for weeks.
There’s one group that of this writing I haven’t seen blamed. That is Congress itself. The House and Senate leadership oversees the Capitol Police, but hasn’t taken responsibility for the debacle. Instead they’re promising investigations.
As for the perpetrators, well they acted like overgrown children — dressing up in costume, flexing their muscles and living in a fantasy world crafted by Donald Trump, a disgraced president who won’t even attend Biden’s inaugural.