Police arrested 52 people after terrorist incident. More than 39,000 others simply walked away.
WASHINGTON DC-In June 2020, police made 194 arrests during Black Lives Matter protests. On Jan. 6, after a domestic terrorist attack where right-wing extremists took control of the Capitol building, Washington Metro police made 52 arrests. During a late-night press conference Wednesday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert Contee tried to explain why the number was so different.
“Our members established a secure perimeter. [Then] we started with arrests [at the Capitol] and methodically moved out from [there],” Contee said. “There are arrests going on as we speak. Members of MPD are on the street and we will continue to enforce the mayor’s curfew.”
He acknowledged the difference in numbers between the June protests and Wednesday’s incident. In this case, officers had to travel, Contee said. When Metro Police got the call for help from the Capitol just after 1 p.m., it took a few minutes to get over there. In that time, a significant number of people left the area, Contee said. Those still around were given a chance to leave instead of being immediately arrested.
“We verbalized and anyone who refused to leave was arrested,” Contee said. “For the city’s response, in terms of how the Metropolitan Police Dept deployed, I’m very comfortable with that.”
Contee couldn’t explain why right-wing terrorists were given the option to leave, but BLM protesters last summer weren’t.
Agencies also weren’t caught off guard, Contee said. He added that MPD had several meetings over the last week with the Capitol Police and other regional partners. The goal was to avoid a problem like Wednesday’s incident. However, Contee couldn’t explain how the group gained access to the Capitol, simply pointing out that Metro wasn’t in charge. That job went to Capitol Police.
For his part, Contee other agencies for their help. In addition to the Virginia State Police, Metro worked with departments from Arlington County, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Montgomery and state police from Maryland and New Jersey.
DC By the Numbers
More happened Wednesday than just a break-in at the Capitol. Contee said his department recovered one pipe bomb from the local DNC and another from the RNC site. They also found a cooler with a long gun and molotov cocktails inside.
MPD officials reported 47 arrests linked to curfew violations and unlawful entry. Out of that number, 26 happened on US Capitol grounds. As of 11:30 p.m., the department also arrested four people for carrying pistols without a license and one person for possession of a prohibited weapon.
“Obviously a very chaotic scene, one we have not experienced in this city before,” Contee said when asked what his officers encountered. “But I’m very proud of my officers. They fought and answered the call. We restored the people’s business.”
Bowser meanwhile said she’s extending the District’s State of Emergency through the inauguration. That way “we can ensure peace and security,” she added.
Also, BOLO [or Be on the Lookout] alerts will start going out Thursday for those who breached the Capitol, Bowser said. District officials will then ask residents to help them identify the people in the photos.
“Some of them have to be held accountable for the carnage,” Bowser said.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.