MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 7th of January, 2021.
You’re listening to The World and Everything in It. Thank you for that. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up: crisis on Capitol Hill.
As you just heard, protesters stormed the halls of Congress yesterday as lawmakers met for a special joint session to certify the electoral college vote.
REICHARD: WORLD’s Harvest Prude had a front row seat from her place in the House press gallery. And outside … correspondent Joshua Raimundo spent the day with President Trump’s supporters. Both of them are joining us now to talk about what they heard and saw. Good morning!
HARVEST PRUDE, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary!
JOSHUA RAIMUNDO, CORRESPONDENT: Good morning!
REICHARD: Joshua, let’s start with you. You were in the crowd when President Trump spoke Wednesday morning. Tell us what that was like.
RAIMUNDO: There were a lot of people. I can’t estimate exactly how many, but crowds and crowds. All different types. I met a lot of people who were immigrants. There were quite a few more African American people than I thought would be there. But the crowd was electric. Just super passionate and very single minded. They all were super convinced that the election was stolen, the election was rigged, that for sure President Trump won and if you think otherwise then you’re just ignoring the evidence. And everyone there believed that, whether they were super solid Christians, which there were many, or definitely not.
REICHARD: Did the mood in the crowd change before some of them made their move on Capitol Hill?
RAIMUNDO: I don’t think so. I think there were the people that were already planning on storming the Capitol. There were people saying, “Today’s the day, today’s the day,” all over. But I mean, I never expected it would be anything like that. When I interviewed people afterwards, after the Capitol was stormed, on the way back I had four different people saying that, no, they think that no matter what would have happened in the speeches that the Capitol was going to be stormed. These people feel disenfranchised and they think it’s Congress’s fault.
REICHARD: When did you realize these people were going to try to get into the building, and then what happened after that?
RAIMUNDO: Yeah, so during the speeches everyone was very peaceful and even the people saying, “This is the day,” or, like, “It’s happening, for real,” I interpreted it as just putting, that we were going to go to the Capitol and just put pressure and have a show of force. As we walked to the Capitol, we were like, “Oh, wow, look at all these people at the Capitol. Wow, like 100,000 people with their flags,” and “Look, they’re on the steps.” And then you’d see people coming back saying, like, “I think they’re throwing tear gas over there. I heard someone say there was pepper spray.”
And so I just kept getting closer, tried to document it. But that’s when I realized it, when people were saying, “I got tear gassed,” “Why?” “Oh, I got tear gassed inside because I was inside.” And then it’s like whoa. That’s when I realized. It was a gradual unfolding of events.
REICHARD: Harvest, you were inside. When did you first realize something was wrong?
PRUDE: Yes, so I was in the House chamber in the press gallery and I started to realize something was wrong when a press aid started coming to us individually and telling us that we should grab anything we needed and we should be ready for a lockdown perhaps for several hours. They weren’t sure how long.
REICHARD: What happened next?
PRUDE: Yeah, so then Capitol Hill police were in the chamber and they told everyone to stay calm but then they started barricading all the doors, like, shutting all of the doors. And so the doors in the chamber have a glass—there are a set of glass doors and then there are a pair of wooden doors. And so all of the wooden doors were being closed. And while that was happening, other aids were distributing basically gas masks or these kind of hoods that would inflate that you could put over your shoulders in case there was a necessity of basically spraying tear gas or something in the chamber.
REICHARD: As you observed what was going on around you and trying to make sense of it yourself, what did the lawmakers do? How did they respond? Was it pretty calm and orderly or did you see panic?
PRUDE: It was a bit of both. There were a lot of people asking confused questions, kind of a babble going on, but as things started to unfold there was also a lot of help and heroism happening as well. As the protesters got closer to where we were, the chaplain inside the chamber actually started praying aloud, just for calm and safety. Members were being told to crouch behind their seats and some of them were comforting others. Other lawmakers were showing others who didn’t know how to put on their gas masks. And when the protesters reached the doors and you started to hear some loud banging, a couple lawmakers rushed to help secure the door. They were dragging furniture along with the Capitol Hill police and along with the police they were talking to those outside the door and trying to calm them down. Because at that point—I was above in the gallery and I heard loud pops and I smelled smoke, so it seemed like there was a gun going off somewhere. There were also protesters breaking glass of the main chamber doors, the one that was barricaded. So, yeah, it was definitely a mix of disorderliness and panic but also a lot of helping hands and stuff as well.
REICHARD: Joshua, you followed the crowd that went inside the Capitol building. And we should say, this was in the interest of reporting on what was happening. So, what was the mood at that point?
RAIMUNDO: The mood was, again, the gradual nature of it. When we got there, people were climbing the scaffolding, placing flags, it seemed kind of harmless and they were screaming, “This is our House. This House is our House.” And then as I got closer and as I followed them in, as you say, for journalistic intent, it got a lot more forceful. It got, like, we’re not going to be let in. We’re going to force ourselves in. Once we got in, the mood was very intense. They were screaming inside the chambers, “This is our House. Let us in.” There was a lot of profanity flying around. And then we got tear gassed. And, yeah, I was near the back so the tear gas didn’t affect me very much and I think the Capitol police did some kind of—I don’t know if they sprayed more tear gas or what they did, but they ended up—the people in the front got really nervous and we were all pushed back. I was kind of slammed against a door and then I tried to move around to try to not slam into someone else. And I have this all on video.
REICHARD: I can’t imagine. When the police began to confront the people doing what they were doing inside the Capitol building, did it help? Did it change things? Or were the police overwhelmed?
RAIMUNDO: The police were always there. So, yeah, they were very helpful. The protesters tried, I think two more times after the time that I went in to storm the Capitol. And on the second attempt after mine, the Capitol police were able to push everyone out and no one was able to get in after that.
REICHARD: Josh, I want to ask you. I saw some accounts that there were 200,000 people there peacefully protesting. So, did you see a difference between the majority people and then what we might call a mob that went into the Capitol building?
RAIMUNDO: Well, some definitely left after Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. I’d say there were probably about 50,000 people at the Capitol, so that would be a quarter of 200,000. But there were probably only about 10,000 who were on the steps surrounding the Capitol and then maybe, I don’t know, 1,000 or so who were actually trying to get in. And those people seemed to be just normal Trump supporters. I didn’t see anyone who was claiming to be a Proud Boy or claiming to be part of any other type of organization. They were just normal, regular Trump supporters who said, “This is it” and “This is our last chance so let’s go.” And I just think that the energy of the crowd just kind of tipped it over.
REICHARD: Harvest Prude is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. Joshua Raimundo is a correspondent for WORLD Digital. Thanks to you both!
RAIMUNDO: Thanks so much.
PRUDE: Thank you. Glad to be here.