The hoards of white supremacists and supporters of President Trump who breached the United States Capitol on Wednesday have prompted numerous conversations. Among them are concerns over Capitol security — or lack thereof. In the aftermath of the insurrection, two leading security officials have resigned, following pressure from largely Democratic representatives who called for them to either leave their posts or be fired.
The lack of police response Wednesday — and its stark contrast to the abuse faced by protesters for racial justice over the summer — led to many asking why police went so easy on white supremacists. After all, it's hard not to notice the difference in treatment when videos surfaced of Capitol police seemingly allowing the Trump-supporting rioters through barricades, an officer in riot gear escorting a woman in a Trump beanie down the Capitol steps, and officers taking selfies with white supremacists.
A number of representatives also voiced their concerns over the lack of security. On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger to resign before Democrats take over the upper chamber later this month. In a statement, Schumer said, "If [he] hasn't vacated the position by then, I will fire him as soon as the Democrats have a majority in the Senate."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to resign on Thursday as well. She told reporters, "There was a failure of leadership at the top. ... Mr. Sund, he hasn't even called us." She added, "It goes beyond the Capitol Police. It goes to the FBI. What was the shortcoming in their intelligence that they provided? It goes to the Department of Defense. How long did it take for them to respond or anticipate the need of the National Guard?”
It didn't take long for both Stenger and Sund to heed Democrats' calls to leave their posts. Just hours after Schumer and Pelosi's statements, both Stenger and Sund offered their resignations. In a statement on Twitter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote that Wednesday's riot "represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government. A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place and significant changes must follow."
On Thursday, both the Senate and the House announced their plans to conduct a "minute-by-minute" investigation into police's lack of response to insurrection at the Capitol. BuzzFeed News reported that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who chairs the subcommittee that funds the Capitol Police, said, "I'm livid about the whole thing because I had conversations with the sergeant-at-arms and the chief of the Capitol Police [and got] assurances that every precaution was being taken and we had enough manpower that we were going to keep people completely away from the Capitol."
Part of the anger at the lack of security comes from the fact that Washington, D.C., is generally a heavily policed city. The United States Capitol Police force has over 2,300 officers and civilian employees and an annual budget of about $460 million. There's also the National Guard, federal law enforcement agencies, and the Metropolitan Police Department, which covers the city at large. Overall, D.C. isn't suffering from a lack of police entities who would have the ability to respond to a mob of white supremacists.
Plus, it's hard to imagine that police were caught off guard. The mob that fell upon the Capitol came from a "Stop the Steal" rally earlier that day where President Trump delivered a troubling speech where he literally said he would lead the group to the Capitol. (He ended up absconding back to the White House, but his followers took him at his word.) Not only should Trump's extremely public rally have been on law enforcement's radar, but white supremacists who stormed the Capitol additionally planned a lot of their attack online.
This was not a covert operation. People were loud and clear about their intentions on public forums like Reddit for weeks. That the security officials in charge of keeping lawmakers safe had to be pressed to resign after a failure of this magnitude suggests maybe the problem goes a little deeper.