When rioters arrived in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, 2021—they did so armed to the teeth.
The Secret Service confiscated hundreds of knives prior to the riots, picked up by the magnetometers that protesters had to pass through at the Ellipse, where former President Donald Trump held his rally before the riot at the Capitol, according to the final report from the Jan. 6 House Select Committee.
It was remarkable the magnetometers were there at all. Prior to the rally, Trump demanded that they be removed, concerned that they would limit the crowd size. Cindy Hutchinson, a Trump staffer at the time, said that Trump told his staff to get rid of the magnetometers so his armed supporters could get onto the grounds.
At one point Tony Ornato, the Secret Service Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations whose responsibilities included security-related issues told Trump that some followers didn’t want to enter the Ellipse because they “have weapons that they don’t want confiscated by the Secret Service.”
“I don’t [fucking] care that they have weapons,” Trump said angrily to Ornato. “They’re not here to hurt me. They can march to the Capitol from here.”
Despite the president being “effin’ furious,” his staff didn’t listen to him and the magnetometers remained.
In total, the Secret Service confiscated “42 canisters of pepper spray, 269 knives or blades, 18 brass knuckles, 18 tasers, 6 pieces of body armor, 3 gas masks, 30 batons or blunt instruments, and 17 miscellaneous items likes scissors, needles, or screwdrivers'' from the 28,000 people who went through the magnetometers to enter the protest grounds at the Ellipse.
Many others refused to enter or hid their bags so they wouldn’t have their weapons confiscated.
New details on the varied armaments carried by rioters was revealed as part of their 845-page report on the violent riot that took place at the U.S. Capitol almost two years ago. The fact that the mob came armed that day, they say, belies the argument that the riot was a spontaneous eruption of violence.
“The mob President Trump summoned to Washington, DC, on January 6th, was prepared to fight,” they wrote.
Secret Service counter surveillance spotted people openly carrying pepper spray and showing up with military-grade gear like ballistic helmets, radios, and body armor prior to the Ellipse rally. Many of the protesters showed up that fateful day ready for war.
Mark Andre Mazza, a rioter who drove up from Indiana, brought a .45-caliber revolver to the riots. While on the grounds, Mazza assaulted a police officer and somehow along the way dropped his firearm. Mazza later told investigators that he was looking for then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and authorities would "be here for a different reason” if he had found her. Mazza was sentenced to 60 months after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer and carrying a pistol without a license.
D.C. has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S. Open-carry of firearms, high capacity magazines, silencers, and assault weapons are all illegal. Anyone who wants to have a concealed carried handgun has to obtain a license from D.C. police—permits issued in other jurisdictions are not accepted. Despite these strict local rules on firearms, some attendees clearly took the risk and brought guns anyway.
The Committee noted that many attendees seemed to be aware of D.C. laws regarding firearms and other weapons, and “planned accordingly.” At 6.29 a.m. on Jan. 6, Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes, who was recently found guilty of seditious conspiracy for the Capitol riot, reminded members of his group that local law prohibited them from carrying blades over 3 inches, and encouraged them to “[k]eep [the knives] low profile.”
Some Oath Keepers recently testified the group put together an arsenal of firearms that they stored in cars over the Potomac river in Virginia, and designated some members as a “quick reaction force” who could go and collect those guns should they be needed.
Members of a Three Percenter group called the “California Patriots-DC Brigade” exchanged messages in the weeks prior to Jan. 6, where they discussed bringing gear, including weaponry like hatchets, bats, metal flashlights, and possibly firearms because they needed to be “ready and willing to fight” like it was “1776.”
Another Three Percenter group called the Florida Guardians of Freedom circulated a flier on Dec. 24, 2020, stating that they were “responding to the call from President Donald J. Trump to assist in the security, protection, and support of the people as we all protest the fraudulent election and re-establish liberty for our nation.” The group’s leader, according to the report, published a “safety video” on Facebook explaining to his followers that D.C. law would allow them to carry weapons such as “an expandable metal baton, a walking cane and a folding knife” to the protest on Jan. 6.
The committee also found evidence suggesting that militia groups “like the Three Percenters” coordinated with other groups leading up to and during Jan. 6. They cite testimony from Josh Ellis, who founded the MyMilitia website (a forum that, at the time, was popular among anti-government extremists). Ellis said that he used the Zello walkie-talkie app while he was in DC on Jan. 6, as did others including members of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers.
The Committee recalled how three men in fatigues “brandished AR-15s” in front of police officers. Other reports of attendees armed with glocks and rifles crackled over D.C. Metropolitan police radios. One rioter who drove from Alabama stashed a handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, hundreds of rounds of ammo, large-capacity magazines, machetes, smoke bombs, and the ingredients to make molotov cocktails in his car, parked by the Capitol building.
A Three Percenter from Texas brought a loaded gun onto Capitol grounds. Another rioter lost his gun in the chaos on the Capitol steps after he assaulted a police officer.
On the Donald.win, one of the most rabid pro-Trump websites on the internet, followers openly discussed what kind of weapons would best aid their quest to overturn the election. They discussed plans to cut off access to tunnels used by politicians and even discussed building gallows so the “traitors know the stakes.” Shortly thereafter a poster shared a diagram showing how to tie a hangman’s knot.
“Let’s construct a gallows outside the Capitol building next Wednesday so the Congressmen watching from their office windows shit their pants,” one wrote.
The January 6 committee placed the blame for the day's actions squarely on the shoulders of the former president and recommended that Trump and those in his orbit should be barred from holding office. Trump, predictably, responded with an all caps post on his social media website Truth Social, once again spreading conspiracies that the election was stolen from him.