US Capitol riots: Police were warned of armed white supremacists, but not thousands

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared testimony for a House hearing Thursday that intelligence did warn that armed, white supremacists would be targeting the U.S. Capitol on January 6. 

But the Capitol Police were not prepared, she wrote, ‘for the massive groups of violent insurrectionists,’ describing the number as being in the ‘tens of thousands.’ 

‘While the Department was prepared to neutralize and remove individuals or groups engaging in civil disobedience or violence among the demonstrators, it was quickly overwhelmed by the thousands of insurrectionists (many armed) who immediately and without provocation began attacking officers, bypassing physical barriers, and refusing to comply with lawful orders,’ she said. 

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify about the insurrection during a House hearing Thursday. In pre-released testimony she wrote that police were warned of armed white supremacists being present, but not ‘tens of thousands of insurrectionists’

Pittman said the Capitol Police were 'quickly overwhelmed by the thousands of insurrectionists (many armed) who immediately and without provocation began attacking officers, bypassing physical barriers, and refusing to comply with lawful orders'

Pittman said the Capitol Police were ‘quickly overwhelmed by the thousands of insurrectionists (many armed) who immediately and without provocation began attacking officers, bypassing physical barriers, and refusing to comply with lawful orders’ 

Pittman will appear before the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on the Legislative Branch for a 10 a.m. hearing Thursday morning. 

Pittman’s pre-released opening statement articulated the intelligence the Capitol Police force had prior to the attack and then explained what happened that day. 

She also wrote about what training Capitol Police officers will receive going forward. 

While President Donald Trump was acquitted on impeachment charges of inciting the January 6 insurrection, both House and Senate committees have started holding hearings on the Capitol attack this week.   

Pittman said that the Capitol Police’s Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division warned officers in advance of January 6 that ‘militia members, white supremacists, and other extremist groups would be participating in the January 6th event.’ 

Officers were warned that ‘these groups planned to be armed.’  

Capitol Police officers were also told that unlike the two Million MAGA marches that happened in November and December, this group would be focused on Congress and the Electoral College vote certification process. 

‘Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of demonstrator would not be other branches of government or counter-protesters,’ Pittman noted. ‘This event was different because all judicial remedies for opposing election results had been exhausted and the only way for their candidate to win was for Congress to reject the Electoral College results.’

Officers were also warned, ‘due to the tense political environment following the 2020 election, the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out.’ 

‘Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election. This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent,’ Pittman wrote in her testimony.  

That being said, Pittman noted that ‘although the Department’s January 3rd Special Assessment foretold of a significant likelihood for violence on Capitol grounds by extremists groups, it did not identify a specific credible threat indicating that thousands of American citizens would descend upon the U.S. Capitol attacking police officers with the goal of breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building to harm Members and prevent the certification of Electoral College votes.’ 

She said the Capitol Police’s preparations for January 6 were based on information gathered from its law enforcement partners including the FBI. 

‘None of which indicated that a mass insurrection of this scale would occur at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th,’ she said. 

On the day of the insurrection, Capitol Police gave Congressional leadership larger police details and had agents protecting evacuation vehicles for them. 

The police force also sent agents to the Ellipse in case members of Congress, participating in Trump’s rally, encountered a security threat.  

There were 1,200 officers working on Capitol grounds at the time of the attack. 

Pittman wrote that while officers were trying to keep insurrectionists out of the Capitol Building, the Capitol Police also had to respond to the pipe bomb threats at the Democratic National and Republican National Committee headquarters, which are located on opposite sides of Capitol Hill. 

Officers had to evacuate House office buildings and also have businesses vacate premises and residents leave the area.  

Another problem that occurred is when a ‘lockdown’ was ordered, when the Capitol Building was initially breached, that process did not go smoothly. 

Officers were supposed to seal all entrances and exits of the Capitol, however ‘some of the physical infrastructure of the building, however, gave way to protesters using shields, flag poles, and other objects to break through glass windows and doors.’ 

Going forward, Pittman said officers would be receiving training on lockdown procedures. 

They would also be learning when to use lethal force. 

A Capitol Police officer fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 insurrection. 

About that, Pittman just confirmed it was under investigation by outside law enforcement. 

The department will also be looking at how less lethal munitions were deployed, as they were ‘not as successful in dispersing insurrectionists in the attack,’ Pittman said.      

‘Additionally, the Department recognized that its training largely focuses on keeping unauthorized persons out of buildings on the Capitol Complex and not scenarios in which a building has been breached,’ she wrote. ‘The Department will also be developing and pushing out additional training scenarios for our officers.’   

At the top of her remarks, Pittman, who moved up the ranks on the heels of Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund’s resignation in the aftermath of the insurrection, said that the police force ‘succeeded in its mission’ that day.  

‘It protected Congressional Leadership. It protected Members. And it protected the Democratic Process.’ she pointed out. ‘At the end of a battle that lasted for hours, democracy prevailed.’   

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