I Saw Provocateurs At The Capitol Riot On Jan. 6. By Michael Waller, who knows professional agitators when he sees them, having been trained to be one and observing hundreds of demonstrations and protests since the 1970s. He is now an instructor/lecturer at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.
This is purely an eyewitness account from notes taken the evening of Jan. 6 and morning of Jan. 7m untainted by any news or information from outside sources.
The deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol bore the markings of an organized operation planned well in advance of the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress.
A small number of cadre appeared to use the cover of a huge rally to stage its attack. Before it began, I saw from my vantage point on the West Front of the Capitol what appeared to be four separate cells or units:
- Plainclothes militants. Militant, aggressive men in Donald Trump and MAGA gear at a front police line at the base of the temporary presidential inaugural platform;
- Agents-provocateurs. Scattered groups of men exhorting the marchers to gather closely and tightly toward the center of the outside of the Capitol building and prevent them from leaving;
- Fake Trump protesters. A few young men wearing Trump or MAGA hats backwards and who did not fit in with the rest of the crowd in terms of their actions and demeanor, whom I presumed to be Antifa or other leftist agitators; and
- Disciplined, uniformed column of attackers. A column of organized, disciplined men, wearing similar but not identical camouflage uniforms and black gear, some with helmets and GoPro cameras or wearing subdued Punisher skull patches.
All of these cells or groups stood out from the very large crowd by their behavior and overall demeanor. However, they did not all appear at the same time. Not until the very end did it appear there was a prearranged plan to storm the Capitol building, and to manipulate the unsuspecting crowd as cover and as a follow-on force. …
Of the thousands of people I passed or who passed me along Constitution Avenue, some were indignant and contemptuous of Congress, but not one appeared angry or incited to riot. Many of the marchers were families with small children; many were elderly, overweight, or just plain tired or frail—traits not typically attributed to the riot-prone. Some said they were police officers from around the country. Many wore pro-police shirts or carried pro-police “Back the Blue” flags. …
Although the crowd represented a broad cross-section of Americans, mostly working-class by their appearance and manner of speech, some people stood out. A very few didn’t share the jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor of the great majority. Some obviously didn’t fit in.
Among them were younger twentysomethings wearing new Trump or MAGA hats, often with the visor in the back, showing no enthusiasm and either looking at the ground, glowering, or holding out their phones with outstretched arms to make videos of as many faces as possible in the crowd.
Some appeared awkward, the way someone’s body language inadvertently shows the world that he feel like he doesn’t fit in. A few seemed to be nursing a deep, churning rage.
They generally covered their faces with cloth masks, as opposed to the pro-Trump people, few of whom wore masks at all. They walked, often hands in pockets, in clusters of perhaps four to six with at least one of them frequently looking behind. …
A second outlier group also stood out. While many marchers wore military camouflage shirts, jackets, or pants of various patterns and states of wear and in all shapes and sizes, here and there one would see people of a different type: Wiry young men in good physical condition dressed neatly in what looked like newer camouflage uniforms with black gear, subdued patches including Punisher skulls, and helmets.
They showed tidiness and discipline. They strode instead of walked, moving at a more rapid pace than most of the people, sometimes breaking into a short jog, and generally keeping to the left side of Constitution Avenue in pairs of two or small groups of three. Unlike others in old military clothes who tended to be affable and talkative, these sullen men seemed not to speak to anyone at all. As we would see, they were the disciplined, uniformed column of attackers. …
It’s almost as if the Capitol police tried to rile up the crowd by attacking them, to goad them into storming the Capitol:
Then something happened at the front of the crowd, as if a champagne cork popped to release pent-up human energy. It seemed like a scuffle, but from 40 feet back, I couldn’t see. People started chanting “USA, USA,” and other slogans. Some burst with streams of profanity about Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and “the steal.” … Suddenly energy surged from the front of the crowd as the anti-riot police, above on the inaugural platform, visibly tensed up. Some sighted their pepper ball weapons toward the densely packed people. One fired a teargas canister—not at the plainclothes militants at the front line, but into the crowd itself. Then another. Flash grenades went off in the middle of the crowd.
I had seen anti-riot police in action before. They moved with a decisive sense of purpose. Now, the Capitol Police crew seemed confused, as if without a leader or perhaps inadequate rules of engagement. These professionals seemed directionless. Some clambered up and down the inaugural platform steps. Others milled back and forth at the swearing-in level. Most of the police ended up leaving the surreal scene. Nobody could tell why.
No bullhorn or sound system could be heard for the police to communicate with the swelling mass of people.
The tear gas changed the crowd’s demeanor. There was an air of disbelief as people realized that the police whom they supported were firing on them. “What are you doing—we support you,” someone yelled. Tear gas wafted through the crowd, a low-grade irritant, fortunately, as if to send a warning to disperse. But nobody could disperse; some tried to leave the area, but more kept flowing in from Constitution Avenue, making evacuation impossible.
All of a sudden, pro-police people felt the police were attacking them, and they didn’t know why. Instead of running away, the people stood their ground.
More tear gas. A canister struck a girl in the face, drawing blood. The pro-police crowd went from disbelief and confusion to anger. A few dozen members of the crowd, mostly young men, raced up a narrow path on the stone steps behind the façade and a limestone wall, facing a few police at the top, who tried to stop them.
The police disappeared and a crowd surged up the stairs to the plaza at the Senate entry level. People inside the façade tore through to wave flags. As another canister of tear gas went off, a few people started pushing against the current of incoming marchers to leave the area. …
Provocateurs herded the crowd forward:
Then, a loud, bellowing shout from behind: “Forward! Do not retreat! Forward!”
Retreat? Nobody was retreating. They were trying to escape the tear gas. But the man kept yelling not to “retreat,” as if this were a military operation. In a powerful voice, he exhorted the crowd to remain on the plaza and not to disperse on the lawn or depart down the steps to the footpath. Thousands more people continued pouring in from Constitution Avenue.
Then two other men, standing across from one another on the high granite curbs on either side of the footpath, bellowed variations of “Forward! Don’t you dare retreat!” Some made direct eye contact at people and pointed directly at them, as if trying to psyche them into submitting….
Still more tear gas, this time with green or yellow smoke. I was concerned that my companion, who was recovering from a previously injured foot, might get knocked down if people started to stampede for air. Once someone falls down in a panicked crowd, there’s a dangerous risk of getting trampled to death. I opened the way for others to exit, with other marchers lending a hand. But most of the people stood where they were as more marchers flowed up Capitol Hill.
What the barking men were doing didn’t hit me until later, when we found out about the attack: They appeared to be part of an organized cell of agents-provocateurs to corral people as an unwitting follow-on force behind the plainclothes militants tussling with police—but who, we would later learn, were actually breaking into the Capitol beneath the Great Rotunda to storm Congress. It was just before 3 o’clock.
These apparent agents-provocateurs placed hundreds of unsuspecting supporters of the president in physical danger. They attempted to block exits for people seeking to escape tear gas. They endangered vulnerable people, including children, the frail, and the elderly.
They funneled and pushed hundreds if not thousands of innocent people into a crush toward the Capitol. They did so with the goal of forcing those people into a confrontation with federal police defending Congress. …
Nobody seemed aware that the Capitol was physically under attack. The tear gas caused pandemonium. But there was still no stampede, and people helped create or widen paths to allow others to leave the area.
Some, seeing frail or elderly people who had a hard time standing, broke into a pallet of black folding chairs for the inauguration and distributed them. But the mood had gone from patriotic — although contemptuous of Congress — to furious. …
Assault by disciplined attackers:
Then, from the north, a column of uniformed, agile younger men walked briskly, single-file, toward the inaugural stand. They came within two feet of me. Their camouflage uniforms were clean, neat, and with a pattern I couldn’t identify. Some had helmets and GoPro cameras. Some uniforms bore subdued insignia, including the Punisher skull. These were the disciplined, uniformed column of attackers. …
Now there were a good three dozen of them, moving in a single, snakelike formation. They were organized. They were disciplined. They were prepared.
“We’re taking the Capitol!” the first or second announced.
Read it all. This is nothing like what was portrayed by the ever-truthful media.