insurrection day

Before, During, After January 6

The historical perspective at six months.

Art: Robert Longo’s in progress charcoal drawing Untitled (Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; January 6th, 2021; Based on a photograph by Mark Peterson) on view in the artist’s studio, New York. Charcoal on mounted paper, 92 1/2 x 134 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Art: Robert Longo’s in progress charcoal drawing Untitled (Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; January 6th, 2021; Based on a photograph by Mark Peterson) on view in the artist’s studio, New York. Charcoal on mounted paper, 92 1/2 x 134 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Art: Robert Longo’s in progress charcoal drawing Untitled (Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; January 6th, 2021; Based on a photograph by Mark Peterson) on view in the artist’s studio, New York. Charcoal on mounted paper, 92 1/2 x 134 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.

The events of January 6, 2021, live in a strange sort of infamy. Absent any congressional investigation so far into what President Joe Biden has described as the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War,” the day has become, like so much in American politics, a confusing battlefield of warring narratives. Consider this an attempt at clarity, featuring Michael Wolff’s detailed account of how the day unfolded within the White House as a riot raged on Capitol Hill; historical perspectives from Rick Perlstein, Mychal Denzel Smith, and Suzy Hansen; an examination by Talia Lavin of the martyrs who have emerged on the right in the riot’s aftermath; and Andrew Rice’s profile of Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is responsible for holding hundreds of insurrectionists to account.


Excerpt: Donald Trump’s January 6, by Michael Wolff

Photo-Illustration: Mike McQuade, Photos: Getty Images

“Seems like quite a few crazies,” said the president.

A little more than three weeks before rioters and revelers stormed the Capitol on January 6, several thousand Trump fans and fanatics gathered in Washington, D.C. There were the Proud Boys in elaborate dress, ZZ Top beards, and tie-dyed kilts — Enrique Tarrio, a Proud Boy organizer, got in line and took a public tour of the White House — who seemed to have appointed themselves Trump’s protectors and vanguard, as the Hells Angels had once done for the Rolling Stones. There were Trump impersonators and a wide variety of other made-for-the-cameras MAGA costumes. There were veterans — or people in military gear trying to suggest patriotism and firepower. There were older men and women, too — more Las Vegas than Altamont. Virtually all without masks. Continue reading an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s ‘Landslide.’


Andrew Rice: Merrick Garland vs. Trump’s Mob

Photo-Illustration: Mike McQuade; Photos: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty Images, Tomasz Skoczen/Getty Images, Julian Schievelkamp/Getty Images

On the afternoon of January 6, as a horde of Trumpist dead-enders marched from the White House toward Capitol Hill, a contingent of a few hundred stopped roughly midway along the route at the Department of Justice. A bearded man in sunglasses and a red MAGA hat narrated the scene in a video filmed on his cell phone: “In front of the DOJ building with a whole lot of pissed-off people.” The department’s headquarters, known as Main Justice, is constructed out of limestone and features 20-foot Art Deco aluminum doors that slide shut at night. At some point, as the mob massed at the entrance, the night doors closed, making the building impenetrable. Continue reading about the mess Merrick Garland has inherited.


Rick Perlstein: The Long Authoritarian History of the Capitol Riot

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer, Photos: Getty Images

It’s always been about building a political base of authoritarians. But at least Republicans used to be sheepish about it. Donald “They’re Rapists” Trump was but a milestone in the Republican Party’s long journey toward dropping the pretense altogether. January 6, 2021, was another. Build your party’s power by actively seeking out thugs, and of course things eventually get out of hand.

After Republicans in the Senate blocked the establishment of a bipartisan committee to investigate the January 6 riot, the Democratic-controlled House in late June moved forward with plans to establish a select committee of 13 members — five of whom will be chosen in consultation with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was among the 139 representatives to vote against the certification of Joe Biden’s November victory. This is part of a schizophrenic pattern, perpetuated by Biden himself, to treat Republicans as both partners in democracy and threats to it. Read about the insurrection’s inevitability.


Mychal Denzel Smith: How January 6 Will Be Remembered by Trump’s Supporters

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The thought experiment that comes to mind about the riot that took place on January 6, 2021, actually requires little thought to play out: What if the mob of people who attacked the Capitol and threatened the lives of lawmakers had been Black? This question is only difficult to answer if you are under some delusion of equality, some imagined American utopia in which Blackness itself is not seen as an inherent threat to the Republic. But if you live in the United States of America, if you saw the police response to the masses gathered in the streets to protest the ongoing killing of Black people at the hands of law enforcement — even when those protesters were peaceful — then the answer to that question is not only clear but horrifying. Continue reading how the riot could very well become a new Lost Cause.


Talia Lavin: The Making of a MAGA Martyr

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Twitter, Matt McClain/Getty Images, Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Days after the storming of the Capitol on January 6, an image began spreading widely across the encrypted chat app Telegram and other bastions of right-wing digital conversation. It was a “battle flag” depicting Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old woman who was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she attempted to enter the building, as a spooky-looking white-on-black idealized feminine figure, not unlike a more martial version of the Starbucks logo. On the flag, a drop of blood dangles from Babbitt’s neck against a crimson Capitol dome. Continue reading how Ashli Babbitt, and those who lived, are being remembered.


Suzy Hansen: The End of the End of American Exceptionalism

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

In the weeks after January 6, an array of publications declared American exceptionalism dead, or nearly so. “American Exceptionalism on the Line,” warned Bloomberg. “The End of the Road for American Exceptionalism,” said the Washington Post. Even Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations — once wellsprings to the cause of American exceptionalism — urged readers of Foreign Affairs to “put an end to the notion of American exceptionalism, of an eternal shining city on a hill.” Continue reading about the way Americans view their place in the world.


Insurrectionists in Purgatory

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images; Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP; FBI; US District Court for DC; Stephanie Keith/Reuters

The government has accused more than 500 people of committing crimes at the Capitol on January 6: dragging a police officer down the stairs of the Capitol and beating him, smoking weed inside the Capitol, carrying bear mace and spraying at Capitol Police, fighting Capitol Police using a stolen riot shield and calling for reinforcements, and much more. The following allegations are drawn from indictments and affidavits filed in federal court. Additional contextual details are drawn from public databases and reporting. Read more allegations from that day.


On the Cover

Detail from Robert Longo’s charcoal drawing Untitled (Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; January 6th, 2021; Based on a Photograph by Mark Peterson), 2021. Charcoal on mounted paper, 92 1/2 x 134 inches. Art: Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery

Robert Longo used Mark Peterson’s photo of the rioters being tear gassed as they attempted to break into the Capitol on January 6th as the basis for this charcoal drawing, seen at the top and on the cover.

“I wanted to depict this scene as performative,” he explains. “The protagonist stands draped in an American flag cape, posturing as a cinematic superhero or classical Greek statue while being recorded on an iPhone, visible in the right of the composition. I am shocked by the degree of rage and anger in these Insurrectionists, but it is ineffective to dismiss these people as merely Trumpified Crazies. Rather, in order to move forward and to better understand, we must consider the origin of this destructive anger and ask ourselves the question: is it truly possible that we can come together as one country or are we ultimately destined to fall apart as a nation?”’ This work will be included in Longo’s debut exhibition at Pace Gallery in New York, on view September 10 to October 23. Read more about the cover in our press room.

Before, During, After January 6