Julio Rosas, a senior writer for Townhall, was at the Capitol on Wednesday when violence broke out as supporters of President Donald Trump forced their way into the building.
Rosas, who has spent the past several months reporting on riots across America, followed the mob inside the Capitol to capture the situation on video. He joins the show today to explain what it was like to be in the middle of the chaos.
We also cover these stories:
- Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked to remove President Donald Trump from office following the violence and unrest at the Capitol on Wednesday.
- In a statement to the Associated Press, former Attorney General Bill Barr blames Trump for the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday.
- Antifa expert Andy Ngo says he doesn’t think the left-wing anarchist group was involved in that unrest.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
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Virginia Allen: I am pleased to be joined by Julio Rosas, a senior writer for Town Hall. Julio also serves in the Marine Corps Reserves. Julio, welcome to the show.
Julio Rosas: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Allen: So, Wednesday was a really hard day in our nation’s history. You were at the Capitol when the violence broke out. If you could, just walk us through what you saw. When exactly did the violence begin?
Rosas: So, things were fine at the Ellipse, where President [Donald] Trump made a speech. And that’s where most of the Trump supporters gathered, by the Washington Monument and near the White House in that area. And so, I was told that people were starting to make their way into the Capitol building. And so, I made my way over there.
And right as I started to go over there, I could see Trump supporters tearing down the inauguration construction fencing, which is not much of a fence. It’s just to section off parts of the Capitol grounds so that people don’t wander on there. So, it was very easy for them to just rip it off. And they just kept going. They just kept going on to the West Side, the side that faces the Lincoln Memorial.
The police presence, and this is something that I want people to understand, they were able to do that because the police presence was very light on the grounds. They had a few metal barricades that are used for concerts and whatnot.
So, really the show of force was not there. And so, the Capitol Police had to scramble at the last minute to try to form defensive lines on the steps on the West Side of the Capitol building. And that’s when we started to see people fighting, because they wanted to get inside, the Trump supporters.
They wanted to get inside the building, and obviously, the Capitol Police [weren’t] going to let them. And so, that’s where we saw the fights, and we saw all the brawling.
And then it kind of transitioned over to the East Side, and that faces the Supreme Court, because that is a little bit easier to get into the Capitol building—not as many steps and stuff. It was after people started to go from the West Side to the East Side, that’s when we finally saw people just being able to break in, because like I said, the Capitol Police clearly were not prepared to prevent people from breaching the complex.
Allen: So, you have rioters entering the Capitol building from both sides, from the East and West. Do you know about how many individuals, or how many people, were you seeing trying to get into the building?
Rosas: It was in the hundreds. So, the main sort of entrance on the East Side, which I mean, it’s really just one quick flight of stairs to get up there. It’s a very narrow doorway and hallway to get inside because that leads into the Rotunda.
It was a lot of people trying to get into this very narrow area. And I was eventually able to get in, because I wanted to see what was going on. And I only made it as far as the Rotunda, because then that’s when police, reinforced by [the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department], started to come in and started to push everyone out through the same entrance that they went into.
Allen: And were these individuals yelling anything? Were they making their demands known to police or to reporters? What were they saying?
Rosas: Oh, yeah, no. Like I said, one, they said that they wanted President Trump for another four years. They wanted Congress to not certify the Electoral College results, and they said they wanted to occupy the Capitol Building for as long as they could.
Obviously, these people are from out of town. So, they were just also just kind of curious, since I’m assuming many of them haven’t even been inside the Capitol building. I mean, I’ve only been inside once, on a tour.
Allen: Wow! So, this is a quite different way to view the Capitol from going on a tour to now you’re reporting on this mob essentially invading the Capitol.
Rosas: Right. Right. So, there was just some people who were just curious, because they just wanted to check things out on the inside. But no, people definitely wanted to interrupt the [certification] … and they did that temporarily. But once they were able to secure the Capitol building, they were able to finish the certification process. So, it really didn’t accomplish their goal.
Allen: Yeah. So, as soon as you got through the doors of the Capitol, what were you seeing? What was happening inside?
Rosas: So, prior to police moving in, things were, I don’t want to say calm, but they were. Because there’s statues, there’s paintings. They weren’t trying to tear those down. They weren’t trying to rip them up that I saw.
I do know that there was some vandalism elsewhere, but in the Rotunda, not as much. The windows on the outside were broken. So, like I said, people were just kind of curious. They did want to go further into the building, but police finally had the manpower to stop them from going any further.
So, that’s why, like I said, the Rotunda was as far as I was able to make it, because then people were being pushed out by cops once they had the numbers to finally push everyone out.
Allen: So, what was running through your mind? As you arrive at the Capitol, as you see what’s happening, you realize, “Whoa, a mob is literally trying to break in!” What are you thinking?
Rosas: I’ve never seen anything … I mean, none of us have in our lifetime have seen [anything] like this before, because when you think about it, this is the Capitol building. I mean, short of the White House, this is one of those central tenets of the United States government, and you’d think that there would be a plan in place and the resources necessary to prevent such an incursion, no matter from which side, no matter who’s trying to break in.
But I think, like I said, there’s just a lack of preparedness on the Capitol Police’s [part]. I’m not trying to disparage them, not the rank and file, but certainly the leadership, for allowing that to happen.
And so, the only thing that I can really compare it to is when … because I was in Minneapolis at the start of all this, at the start of all the riots last year. And I was on the ground outside the 3rd Precinct in south Minneapolis, and I was there when they abandoned it. And so they abandoned the precinct, and that’s when people stormed in.
They set it on fire, and the rioters had control of that area after that. But obviously, that’s a city police precinct, and this is, like I said, one of the main branches of government buildings that’s been through a lot over the years.
So, it was certainly just surreal to see, really. I just almost couldn’t believe it.
Allen: Yeah. Well, and like you say, obviously, the Capitol wasn’t planning on having a major threat on Wednesday. There was knowledge that individuals were gathering on the National Mall to have this rally.
But as far as you and I are aware of, there was no whispers of, or broadly known plan, that there was going to be this massive group of individuals who essentially invaded the Capitol. And we certainly salute the job of the police that did get in there and shut it down and bring order.
But Julio, as you mentioned, you have traveled around the country over the past several months. You’ve covered these riots. You’ve been in the midst of the chaos. As someone who has covered so many riots, what stands out to you about what you saw on Wednesday?
Rosas: What I will say is that there is a false narrative going around right now, and actually Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is parroting it, basically saying that, “Oh, if these were [Black Lives Matter] protesters, the police response would have been much harsher.”
And I can say that that’s just simply not true. The Capitol Police, and then eventually the other law enforcement agencies, they were trying everything they could to stop people from getting inside. They used pepper spray, tear gas, flash bangs, pepper balls. I got hit with a few pepper balls in [the] chaos of it all.
Allen: What are pepper balls?
Rosas: So, it’s like a paintball. So, when you get hit, instead of paint coming out, it’s tear gas or pepper spray, kind of. So, instead of spraying and getting a whole bunch of people, if cops want to just target an individual, they can hit them with a pepper ball, and they get the irritant on them. It’s pretty annoying.
So, all this is to say is that the Capitol Police did not just open the doors and let them all in. I mean, that is just not the case at all. And then of course they’re saying, “Oh, well, if it was BLM protesters, they would shoot us.”
Well, we could say that someone was shot. A Trump supporter was shot while she was trying to enter the [House] Speaker’s lobby. So, that’s just something that needs to be said, because this narrative coming from Democrats and the media is just simply not true.
And I, and I can say that because, as you said, I’ve been to a lot of these other riots, and often in those cases, the police response is almost nothing, which is why the riots were able to happen, because there was no police response.
And so now there definitely was. It just took a long time for them to actually have the manpower to finally take control back of the complex.
Allen: Yeah. How long did it take? Do you know how many hours?
Rosas: It was probably about four or five hours, give or take. People started to leave once the 6:00 p.m. curfew was announced. By 5:00, most people were gone. There were still some people out, and then by 6:00, people were still out, but not as near as many as numbers as it was during the day in the afternoon.
Allen: And I know that you are capturing video during, obviously, while you were in the Capitol, as you were watching this mob break in. Did you hang out kind of into the evening outside to see what was happening?
Rosas: Yeah, just a little bit. Like I said, there were some Trump supporters still out and about, but the additional law enforcement agencies … I mean, I saw Prince William County [Virginia] officers. I saw Virginia State Police, National Guard, the FBI coming out.
So, they finally had the numbers to form just a human chain link around the entire perimeter of the Capitol Hill complex, which is not by any means a small complex. But by then, the damage was done, and everything had already happened. It was good, but it was a little, too little too late at that point.
Allen: As you mentioned, one individual was shot in the neck and tragically died. Did you hear gunshots while you were inside the Capitol?
Rosas: No. No. I believe I was still outside trying to get in to see what was going on when that occurred.
Allen: So, as the evening wore on, we know that there were a number of arrests made. Did you witness any of those arrests take place?
Rosas: Yes. I did see one or two, but the issue was in the Rotunda, I can say … . So, the reason why it was hard for the police to make arrests at just anywhere in any case is that if you have a single line of officers pushing a crowd back, they need every single officer on that line to maintain that integrity. Right?
So, if an officer is going to pull somebody out of the crowd to make an arrest, well, they have to turn around and get behind the other officers, and that leaves a gap in that line. So, there needs to be multiple lines of law enforcement so that the officers on the front line can take someone, pull them back, and then have the officers behind them take care of the person that they want to be arrested.
In the Rotunda, it was just that single line of officers. So, there wasn’t anybody really to make sure someone was apprehended without compromising the integrity of that line.
So, I understand that people are asking, “Well, how can they just break in and not be arrested?” Well, it depends on what the situation is, because they’re just trying to get everyone out so they can just secure the area. I think that was their main priority, just because there were multiple breaches on different levels.
Allen: Yeah. Now I know you had mentioned there were two doors, for sure, individuals were coming in from. Do you know if there were other entrance points, or was it just those two?
Rosas: There definitely were other entrance points that were breached. Other ones were attempted to be breached and compromised, but they weren’t successful.
Rosas: And that’s the other thing, too, that people don’t understand, is that it’s not the White House, where there’s a big fence around it. You can walk up to it. And there’s entrances and exits for Capitol Hill staff, press people, the main doors. I mean, this is a pretty accessible federal government building, which people don’t really seem to understand.
And in normal times, and I think one of the issues with Capitol Hill police leadership is that it was complacency that led to this, because there’s been a lot of protests at the Capitol building, but they never went beyond to what happened yesterday.
So, based on what I saw, I’m assuming that they just thought, “Oh, well, we’ll just do the same thing that we have always done, which is put up a nice little metal barricade and put a few officers in non-riot gear and that should be enough.”
But what they didn’t factor into was just the fact that people were riled up. They were heated, and they wanted get in. And also just because they had the numbers. I mean, initially the officers there did not have the numbers at all to hold the grounds, much less the actual complex itself.
Allen: And did you talk with any of these rioters?
Rosas: Sometimes, throughout the day. Yeah. Some people were just kind of curious. I mean, even they were kind of surprised that it was going as far as it went, and they were trying to just get more information on what was happening.
I told them, I said, “Oh, yeah, I just came inside.” And they’re like, “Oh, well, what was that like?” And I was, like, “Well, it’s really bad. You don’t want to go in there.” It was just kind of a dog finally catching up to the car, and now it’s like, “OK, well, what do you do now?” type of situation. And so I mean, there was no real leadership in terms of, like, in the crowd of someone directing people where to go.
It was just kind of a free-for-all just trying to go and see how far they can get into. And as we saw, they were able to get into [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s office in the Capitol. They were able to get into the one of the chambers.
So, it was just insane. It was just crazy. And like I said, I’ve never seen something of that magnitude, on that scale, in terms of a building being breached.
Allen: Yeah. Well, Julio, we’re really thankful for your reporting, your boldness to go into the midst of that to capture that video. And I’ve been really thankful throughout several past months of rioting that you have often been in the midst of the chaos, capturing what’s really going on.
If you would, tell our listeners how they can follow your work.
Rosas: So, they can follow me on Twitter at Julio_Rosas11. They can follow my work at townhall.com. They can become a VIP subscriber.
You get access to exclusive articles, and it helps fund trips to put me in more dangerous situations, but that’s OK, because I always volunteered for it. I’m never forced to go. So, you can find my work.
Allen: Great. Well, stay safe. And Julio, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming on the show today.
Rosas: Thank you.