How the Capitol attack unfolded

Congress is still investigating the origins and planning behind last year's insurrection on Jan. 6 — the most violent assault on the United States Capitol since the British attack during the war of 1812. Amna Nawaz takes a look back at the historic and deadly events of that day.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    January 6 is a day our own correspondents covered and lived through, and one that over the past year we have continued to learn more and more about.

    Amna Nawaz takes a look back with this timeline of the historic and deadly events of that day.

  • Protesters:

    USA! USA! USA!

  • Amna Nawaz:

    One year ago today, Trump supporters from across the country gathered in the nation's capital to protest Congress' certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

    Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal.


  • Amna Nawaz:

    At a rally near the White House, President Trump spoke to a crowd estimated in the thousands, everyone from ordinary Americans to conspiracy theorists…

  • Protester:

    Proud Boys.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    … to members of right-wing extremist groups.

  • Donald Trump:

    We will never give up. We will never concede.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Trump repeated the lie that the election was stolen, urging his supporters to march to the Capitol and fight.

  • Donald Trump:

    You will never take back our country with weakness. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Around 1:00 p.m., as Trump is wrapping his remarks in this park, the day turned violent. A group of his supporters on the western side of the Capitol confront the handful of police guarding the barriers, and force their way through.

    Moments after Mr. Trump finished his more-than-hour-long speech, thousands of protesters streamed from the rally site and walked this route, down Pennsylvania Avenue, directly to the U.S. Capitol grounds.

    Several people told us that day they expected Vice President Pence to overturn the 2020 election results.

  • Protester:

    What needs to happen today is, Vice President Pence needs to not open the seven state electors' envelopes for the states that I mentioned, set them aside, and send it all back to those state legislatures.

  • Protester:

    Well, we got to stop this steal from happening, because, if we don't, nobody's ever going to vote again, and there's not going to be any integrity in our voting system.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As the crowd grows, clashes between Trump supporters and Capitol Police officers, clearly outnumbered, intensify.

  • Protester:

    We're not going to take it anymore! This is our country!

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Outside, the Capitol's West Front became a battleground.

    Inside, the joint session of Congress to certify election results was under way. The traditionally ceremonial process is upended by Republicans, led by Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, challenging Trump's loss, sending lawmakers to their separate chambers to debate.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):

    What does it say to the nearly half the country that believes this election was rigged if we vote not even to consider the claims of illegality and fraud in this election?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, around 2:00 p.m., the East Side barricades are breached.

    Here's what I saw from outside the Capitol.

    Half-an-hour ago, vehicle barriers that had been set up about 100 yards or so from the Capitol were first breached by a group of protesters, Capitol Hill Police retreated a little bit more. Then hundreds more protesters started to stream up this walkway in front of the Capitol. It is a remarkable scene.

    On the West Front, the mob tore down scaffolding, battled their way through the last line of police defense, and broke into the Capitol Building itself.

  • Rioter:


  • Amna Nawaz:

    "NewsHour" congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins was inside the building reporting live as it happened.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, there are protesters. Protesters have now broken into the U.S. Capitol.

  • Man:

    We will stand in recess until the call of the chair.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The Senate was called into recess and evacuated.

    The mob of Trump supporters roamed the historic halls, damaging property and searching for lawmakers. Security footage captured the moment Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman shuttled Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah to safety, before running ahead to divert the approaching mob away from the Senate chamber.

    Rioters came within 100 feet of Vice President Mike Pence, whose security detail took him to safety from an office near the Senate.

    While this was happening, at 2:24 p.m., Trump tweeted from the White House, criticizing Pence for not having — quote — "the courage to do what should have been done."

    Remarkably, the House was still in session when rioters attempted to break into that chamber. A police officer shot Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from California and QAnon conspiracy theorist, as she and a crowd tried to break into the rear of the chamber where some lawmakers were still sheltering.

    According to an analysis from The New York Times, rioters breached the Capitol in at least eight different places. They entered the Rotunda, Statuary Hall, and the Senate chamber. Some broke into the offices of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's.

    Law enforcement arrived to clear a hallway above Statuary Hall, where "NewsHour" correspondent Lisa Desjardins was sheltered.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But I do hear shouting as police seem to one by one be taking down the protesters, telling them to get on the ground, trying to control the situation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Democratic Senator Patty Murray from Washington state spoke with Judy Woodruff about hiding in her office with her husband that day.

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):

    And we heard somebody saying: "We saw them. They're in one of these rooms."

    And they were pounding on our door and trying to open it. And my husband sat with his foot against the door, praying that they would not break in.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, outside, as crowds grew, so did the violence. Officers on site continued to call for backup throughout the day.

    And while some reinforcements arrived from local and state and federal agencies, it took National Guard units about three hours to respond to the Capitol.

    Rioters, outnumbering law enforcement by more than 50-1, attacked, dragged, and beat police officers, crushing them underfoot and spraying them with chemicals.

  • Michael Fanone, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department:

    They began to beat me with their fists and with what felt like hard metal objects.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In testimony to Congress, a former D.C. Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone recounted being pulled into a crowd of protesters.

  • Michael Fanone:

    I was electrocuted again and again and again with a Taser.

  • Rioter:

    This is our Capitol!

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In total, nearly 150 police officers were injured on the day.

    During the attack, those closest to President Trump privately urged him to take action and tell his supporters to stop the assault. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke with him from the besieged Capitol. His son Donald Trump Jr. and several FOX hosts texted White House contacts to tell Trump to address the crowd.

    Hours passed before President Trump did anything to address the insurrection. Just after 4:00 p.m., he released a video repeating unfounded claims about the election results.

  • Donald Trump:

    I know your pain. I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election. And everyone knows it, especially the other side.

    But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Around this time, police began to secure the Capitol.

    Flashbangs and tear gas were used to clear the Western Terrace, the site of presidential inaugurations. Police declared the Capitol Complex secure around 8:00 p.m.

    Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States: To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In the early hours of the next day, January 7, Congress finished certifying the election results. Some Senate Republicans withdrew their initial objections.

  • Mike Pence:

    The chair declares the joint session dissolved.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, suffered two strokes and died that evening.

    In the days and months following the attack, four police officers who were on duty died by suicide. More than 720 people have been arrested and charged with crimes linked to January 6.

    The physical destruction of that day has since been cleaned up, but questions of how to repair the deeper damage to our democracy remain.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," in Washington, I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So hard to see those video all over again.

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