In a surreal scene of chaos and glee, hundreds of Trump loyalists roamed the halls, taking photos and breaking into offices. No police officers were in view. In a room where there were images of mountains and maps of Oregon on the wall, a man in a leather jacket ripped a scroll with Chinese characters. A young man put a framed picture of the Dalai Lama in his backpack.
“We’re claiming the House, and the Senate is ours,” a sweaty man in a checked shirt shouted, stabbing his finger in the air.
Nearby in the first-floor Crypt, the heart of the Capitol building, the police appeared to be overwhelmed. One wiped tear gas from his eyes.
When a man approached to ask where the bathroom was, he said softly, “We just need you guys to get out of here safely.”
An officer with the Capitol Police tried to reason with the crowd.
“You guys just need to go outside,” he said to a man in a green backpack. Asked why the police were not forcing the mob out, the officer said, “We just got to let them do their thing for now.”
Another officer stood by a stairway, watching everything unfold and answering a few questions, including directing a woman to the bathroom. One protester came up to him and shouted in his face, “Traitor!” When another man approached to apologize to the officer, the officer replied, “You’re fine.”
“Everybody’s been OK today, except that guy,” he said, motioning to the yeller.
Most of the crowd in the Crypt just milled around. A young man in a red Trump hat smoked a cigarette. Several men shouted and screamed. A man in a backpack with two American flags jumped underneath a chandelier, yelling, “Whose house,” as the crowd answered, “Our house.” The sound boomed and reverberated around the tile and marble as the police looked on.