A year ago to the day, they have descended on Washington in their thousands, rallying to protest the outcome of a presidential election they claim was rigged.
The United States Capitol was attacked, leaving the country wounded.
As President Joe Biden delivered a speech attacking Donald Trump for chaos, people involved in the events of January 6, 2021 told AFP their stories of a day that shocked the world.
– The republican recalls “the euphoria” –
âJanuary 6 has been amazing,â said Samson Racioppi, a 40-year-old Republican Party loyalist who hired several buses to bring people to Washington from his home state of Massachusetts.
The day started with outgoing Republican President Trump addressing a sea of ââsupporters waving “Trump 2020” flags in the biting cold near the White House.
Trump ignited the crowd with a provocative speech, repeating his false claims that he won the November election against Democrat Joe Biden.
âI remember the real feeling of that euphoric day,â said Jim Wood, a military veteran from New Hampshire to Washington. “See everyone.”
Before Trump finished speaking, Wood, who is in his sixties, walked to Capitol Hill, where Congress was certifying Biden’s electoral victory.
Thousands more followed suit and a huge crowd quickly gathered around the shiny white dome of the Capitol.
– ‘Let’s go!’ as the crowd flocked –
“Then all of a sudden you heard, I guess from my recollection, screams of, you know, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,'” said Glen Montfalcone, who is also came from Massachusetts to Washington.
“And then a kind of anarchy started to happen,” Montfalcone added.
âPeople were pushing, pushing, pushing. ‘Come on, come on, come on,'” he said. “And that’s what we all did, we all walked on and just started walking into the area and then going up the stairs.”
The three men insist that they did not enter the Capitol itself. They could risk jail if they admitted to doing so.
Hundreds of people, however, stormed the building, including a half-naked tattooed man wearing horns and a fur hat.
A protester was shot dead by the police.
The world watched in horror live the assault on the citadel of American democracy.
Wood said the television footage he saw broadcast the next day at breakfast was “demonizing” and that the vast majority of the protesters remained outside the Capitol.
Over the next few months, two competing narratives would emerge.
Trump supporters say it was a peaceful protest against a “stolen” election.
Police officers who fought with the mob, Democratic lawmakers, and even some Republicans called it “terrorism.”
– The FBI at the door –
In the aftermath of January 6, law enforcement launched a nationwide sweep for participants in the assault on Capitol Hill.
Montfalcone called FBI agents to his door. Several friends were arrested.
In his law school, students tried unsuccessfully to have Racioppi expelled.
In Washington, a House of Representatives committee is investigating what has been described as an insurgency or attempted coup.
The January 6 participants reject this characterization of the day.
On the contrary, Racioppi proudly says: “This is something that I will tell my grandchildren”.
He remains convinced, like many Republicans, that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump, despite the absence of any credible evidence that it happened.
Likewise, Wood, an Air Force mechanic who spent years working on B-52 bombers, insists the election was fraudulent.
De Biden, he said, “I don’t consider him the President of the United States.”
Racioppi said January 6 was just a skirmish in an ongoing conflict.
“We look at it like it’s a war, don’t we?” ” he said. “We are going to do as much political damage to the left and to the people who support tyranny as possible.”
Would he do it again?
âOf course I would do it again,â he said.
cjc / cl-dw / ec