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Supporters of President Donald Trump gather in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.
Photo by Hamil Harris

Chronicle correspondent recounts the Capitol riot

WASHINGTON — My main goal in going to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was to talk to lawmakers about the previous day’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

In D.C., there are always protests, but this was so different.

I listened at my Maryland home as President Donald Trump began speaking to the crowd at the Ellipse, south of the White House. About a mile and a half away, Congress was preparing to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. This time, the normally routine process would be anything but.

I guess I just thought, “Oh, there might be something going on.” I also suspected it would be a long day.

Related: Flags, faith and fury

Instead of taking the Metro subway as I often do, I drove. I knew something was different after I found a parking spot by the Supreme Court. I saw the crowd and heard this roar. Then I heard a little stun grenade. I thought, “Oh, they’re really getting rowdy. What’s going on here?”

I was hesitant, but I made it to the east front of the Capitol. I noticed the cops. I didn’t see many. Maybe four? But the crowd was very large. I mean, it was a little scary.

Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

I was able to interview people because I had a suit on and said I was with The Christian Chronicle. That made the difference because I heard people in the crowd being really unfriendly to the mainstream media. 

I actually took a picture outside of the guy who was earlier photographed inside the Capitol holding a Confederate battle flag. “It’s just beginning,” I heard Kevin Seefried say. He was later arrested on a federal unlawful entry charge.

It’s just a tale of two worlds. I talked to people because I wanted to learn more, but I’m thinking, “What happens now?” 

From there, things just got crazier. I heard one guy say, “They shot that lady.” We later learned that Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter and Air Force veteran, had been killed as she and other rioters stormed the Capitol.

At the time, I just listened, not knowing exactly what was happening. I kept taking pictures. In D.C., there are always protests, but this was so different. It was a majority White crowd. I was one of the few Blacks I saw out there. 

These people were very articulate and from all over. Most were peaceful, but groups had just pushed into the Capitol, and there wasn’t a large police presence. I literally walked up the steps. I didn’t know until later that the rioters were able to go all the way into the Rotunda. 

I got an alert on my phone from the D.C. mayor’s office and learned about a 6 p.m. curfew that night and that lawmakers were on lockdown. At that point, I just turned my phone off and kept reporting.


HAMIL R. HARRIS is a Christian Chronicle correspondent and a veteran journalist who spent two decades with the Washington Post. He preaches regularly for the Glenarden Church of Christ in Maryland. After returning home from reporting on Jan. 6, he joined the Chronicle for an evening panel discussion of the day’s events.

Filed under: Capitol riot Christians insurrection News Opinion reporter riot U.S. Capitol

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