Moments after a woman inside the United States Capitol was shot and killed, Trump supporter Valerie Muldez of New Braunfels, Texas, raced away from the Capitol to catch a bus with her two children and husband. “They tear-gassed our kids,” she said. “I still have it in my throat,” coughed her 11-year-old, Elisha.
Perhaps Muldez had second thoughts about bringing her brood along for today’s melee. “No,” she insisted, “I have to teach the next generation how to stand up for righteousness and I want them to see these are wonderful patriots,” she said, gesturing to the amoeba swarming and trashing the Capitol nearby.
As with so much of the Trump era, what happened here today was shocking but not surprising. It was the inexorable conclusion of Trumpism. It was the sequel to November’s “million MAGA march,” at which many of the president’s supporters promised to return and raise hell unless the election results were reversed.
“Something had to be done,” said Marilyn Bittner, who works as a “house flipper” in Maine. “They’re not listening to us in the courts or in the legislature, so it’s reached a point where people are going to break in,” she said.
On the muddy lawn, a contractor from Philly named Dave told me “this is just the beginning. People are pissed off.” Why wasn’t it an act of domestic terrorism to break into the U.S. Capitol? “This is our house,” he said. “We own it. They don’t own it.” Inside the building, Trump loyalists ran wild through the halls, posing for pictures in Nancy Pelosi’s office and scrawling “MURDER THE MEDIA” on the walls while he tweet-egged them on.
“The building belongs to us,” said Dave Hall, an unemployed Middlebury, Vermont, man who was waving a QAnon flag in front of the marble steps. He said his favorite news sources were The Epoch Times and One America News Network. Like everyone I spoke to, he had nothing but disdain for the vice-president.
“This pretty much solidifies what we already knew about Pence,” said Hall. “He’s not aligned with freedom, he’s not aligned with Trump.”
In various interviews, Vice-President Pence was described as “very disappointing,” “a traitor,” and “not a Christian.” One man bleated into a bullhorn that Pence was “the devil.”
Groups of women posed for pictures with their friends in front of the besieged dome, a perverse sort of tourism. “Get one of me!” said one person, hanging from the scaffolding of the bleachers meant to hold Joe Biden’s inauguration guests in two weeks. “This is what Trump wanted,” said another, not unreasonably.
“YMCA” and “Macho Man” and Elton John could be heard over the roar of the mob as the acrid tang of tear gas whipped on the Washington winds.
Bizarrely, I bumped into Darinna Thompson, a 49-year-old homemaker whom I happened to interview in a parking lot in Pennsylvania two weeks before the election. “You took it from Trump!” she accused me. What about the fact that Trump-appointed judges and his own attorney general said there was no grand election conspiracy? “Bill Barr is a fat, bloated, loaded swamp creature,” she said with a shrug. How was her field trip inside the Capitol? “A little peppery,” she allowed. “But you should go in there, it’s beautiful. I thanked them for their hospitality — most of them are on our side, the Capitol Police.”
In fact, there was only one person who told me he was troubled by the anarchy underfoot. The break-in “was not going to solve a thing, and then to see the police get treated the way they were treated, it’s ridiculous,” said David Ellis, a 60-year-old New Hampshire man who admitted that he works as — you guessed it — a police chief. Still, as with Muldez, the anarchy didn’t make Ellis second-guess his decision to attend today.
“There’s a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people,” he said. “Like me.”