Mayor of Washington lambasts ‘failure’ to protect US Capitol

Members of Congress and the mayor of Washington have lambasted the police force responsible for defending the Capitol after it was easily overrun by a pro-Trump mob on Wednesday.

The chief of the US Capitol Police said the force was launching a “thorough review” after a day of turmoil that resulted in four deaths while forcing lawmakers to flee for cover as the rampage progressed.

“Obviously it was a failure or you would not have had police lines breached,” Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, said in a briefing on Thursday, adding the day’s events had made her worried about the security of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration later this month.

“There’s going to have to be a real investigation into what happened,” Ms Bowser said.

The 2,300-strong US Capitol Police force, a federal law enforcement agency overseen by Congress, crumbled on Wednesday afternoon as hundreds of rioters burst into the Capitol complex and invaded congressional offices and chambers.

Steven Sund, chief of the US Capitol Police, said in a statement that his force would conduct a “thorough review of this incident, security planning and policies and procedures”.

Despite video footage showing hundreds of people engaged in criminal activity, just 26 people were arrested on the grounds of the Capitol complex on Wednesday.

Washington’s metropolitan police department said it had arrested a total of 69 people in relation to the disorder between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Jeffrey Rosen, the acting US attorney-general, said the Department of Justice would ensure members of the mob faced “the full consequences of their actions under the law,” adding that some charges would be brought as early as Thursday.

The FBI said it was seeking to “identify individuals instigating violence” and that it was “accepting tips and digital media depicting rioting or violence in and around the US Capitol on January 6”.

Security in Washington has been beefed up since Wednesday, and officials said a seven-foot fence would be erected around Capitol grounds.

But members of Congress joined Ms Bowser in criticising the failure to prepare for a well-telegraphed gathering of pro-Trump supporters, who were repeatedly encouraged to travel to the capital by the president.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6,” Donald Trump tweeted on December 19 in one of several posts advertising the event. “Be there, will be wild!”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, said the security response “represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government” and demanded a “painstaking investigation and thorough review”.

He said “significant changes must follow” and that bipartisan discussions had already begun.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, told Politico that if Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger did not resign, he would fire the highest-ranking federal law enforcement officer in the upper chamber when Democrats take the majority later this month.

Tim Ryan, the Democratic chairman of the House committee that oversees the Capitol Police’s $516m annual budget, said he had contacted the force, as well as other law enforcement agencies and the military, in an attempt to establish how the crowds managed to breach the complex so quickly.

“I’m livid about the whole thing,” Mr Ryan told reporters. “You can be assured that somebody is going to be held responsible for this.”

He added: “We’re going to review what the plans were, and what exactly happened. I will assure the American people that the appropriate people will be held accountable because this was an embarrassment.”

One US Capitol Police officer has been put on administrative leave in connection with the fatal shooting of a protester. The force will conduct an investigation into the death in conjunction with the city’s metropolitan police department.

The police response was compared unfavourably with the much stronger measures put in place by law enforcement agencies during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, when peaceful protesters were tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets in Lafayette Square, just opposite the White House.

“Imagine what would have happened if the domestic terrorists we saw at the Capitol yesterday were not white?” asked Rashawn Ray, a professor of sociology and policing expert at the University of Maryland.

Some critics of the US Capitol Police pointed to what appeared to be footage of some officers posing for “selfies” with pro-Trump supporters as others moved barricades to make way for the mob.

Mr Sund said his officers had turned over two pipe bombs to the FBI and arrested the owner of a suspicious vehicle. The metropolitan police said it a long gun and Molotov cocktails had been recovered from a cooler in a vehicle found on Capitol grounds.

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