A Black Capitol Police Officer speaks out following the Insurrection on January 6.
If privilege was a person, it would look like every motherf**ker that was in there.
It’s been almost 2 weeks since the TerrorInsurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol—or as I like to call it: the day the world saw just how delusional and dangerous president-sponsored white supremacists can be.
Once the dust settled and the night air dissipated the lingering clouds of tear gas, this country was left with a building that—possibly for the first time in its history—looked as damaged as our politics and race relations. We were also left with a lot of videos, memes, and opinions: each rooted in modicums of truth, but were so oversimplified that they can’t be regarded as anything more than dark humor.
As a proud Black American, D.C. native, and current D.C. resident, seeing legions of caucasity swarm the Capitol with the intention of making white mediocrity the law of the land had me overwhelmed with feelings of disbelief, anger, and fear. I had a profound sense of gratitude for the United States Capitol Police officers; who, for hours, literally put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of all members of Congress and their staff. More pointedly, I was concerned about the well-being of the Black officers, whose Black lives were in the midst of the unfolding chaos, protecting a historically (and literally) white space.
I spoke with a Black veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police, who shared with me his account of the events that took place on January 6, 2021, including what it was like to save American patriots from American terrorists as a Black American in law enforcement. Throughout my almost 2-hour interview with him, he also provided some much-needed clarification on (1) standard protocol for protests at the Capitol, (2) the perceived notion that the TerrorInsurrectionists were given special treatment by Capitol Police due to race, and (3) possible next steps on what Capitol Police can do moving forward to prevent such an insurrection from happening again.
NOTE: The following are excerpts from an exchange that took place on January 11, between myself and a Black veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police who asked to remain anonymous. Said exchange has been edited for brevity and clarity, and contains racially-charged and explicitly profane language.
Part I: Protocol
Our mission is to protect Congress and all the visitors [of the Capitol] so that Congress can fulfill their Congressional duties in an open and safe environment.
Kellye Beathea (KB): Can you give us a synopsis of what typically happens upon receiving information that a rally is taking place at the Capitol?
Capitol Police Officer (CPO): So the Capitol Police issues permits for people that want to demonstrate. On the permit, you indicate whether you want to participate in “civil disobedience”—that means there’s a plan on getting arrested, planning on not following the rules, and stuff like that. If we get that permit and [we’re advised] that they plan to be peaceful, then we don’t need a lot of units or assets. If we see there’s a potential for [civil disobedience]—they want to get locked up—then we’re going to bring in some officers, and that’s when we’ll increase our manpower.
We treat everybody the same, but the number of assets that we deploy is usually based on the number of [protesters], and if there are anticipated counter-protesters there. For example, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) might come. We might deploy a bunch of officers—not [just] for the KKK, but for the amount of counter-protesters that will be there, in anticipation that things could get violent. We still gotta protect his building and [if] they want to get arrested, they’re going to get arrested.
KB: What is your overall duty/top priority as a Capitol Police Officer?
CPO: Our mission is to protect Congress and all the visitors [of the Capitol] so that Congress can fulfill their Congressional duties in an open and safe environment.
KB: So what does that typically entail?
CPO: We gotta make sure that Congress and their staff is safe, so that they can fulfill their Congressional duties—whatever they were elected to do. We provide a safe environment so that they can do so. That’s our number one goal.
Part II: Debunking the Misleading
It would hurt my heart, it would hurt my heart a ton. I pray that that’s not accurate.
KB: There is a video of an officer looking like he is opening a gate, letting these people [into the Capitol]. Can you explain? I know you weren’t in this guy’s head, so—
CPO: So I heard two different explanations, and they both make sense to me. That area they opened up was not [a way] into the building. It was just [another] area. There were people ALL around us—you got people behind you and people in front of you and people [to the] side of you. At least if you get the people from behind you, you get everybody in one particular area. So if it’s just one [officer], you’re not being overrun.
The second theory that I heard makes [the video] make a little more sense. They opened that area up so that vehicles—evacuation vehicles—could get through, because people were in the middle of the road where the evac vehicles were attempting to get out. That makes a little bit more sense to me. But [it’s] all based on hearsay—I don’t know the officer that did that.
KB: But [with] you being more or less an expert of the layout of the building, can you say whether or not he was letting them into the building?
CPO: Absolutely not. That clip was not a clip of them letting anybody into the building. I can’t sit here and say that I think that officers let people in the building. Maybe I’m just being naïve. If they did, it wasn’t because they were a part of the group. If they did that shit, it was because they are dumb as fuck and they don’t need to be officers. But I don’t see it as them being part of [the terrorist] group. And like I said, maybe I’m being naïve, but I want to have a little bit more faith in my officer—in my fellow man. Maybe I’m wrong.
KB: I mean, I personally hope you’re right about the naivete, because how do you go back to work after that?
CPO: Yeah, it’s tough.
KB: There were accounts of possible other officers—not necessarily Capitol Police, but other officers from other jurisdictions—who were also in the crowd. Can you give you an account of any of those people?
CPO: Yes, some did encounter me and show me their badges. They were saying, “We’re doing this for you,” and I…what? You WHAT?! You’re doing this for ME? People were definitely emboldened and there were definitely police in the building that were not supposed to be there.
KB: There are also Twitter rumors—so to speak—of other Capitol Police possibly being in on [the insurrection]. Do you have a comment about that?
CPO: It would hurt my heart, it would hurt my heart a ton. I pray that that’s not accurate.
KB: But you haven’t heard anything yourself about it?
CPO: No, I can’t say that I have heard anything [regarding] that, but it’s not impossible. I work with a lot of people that are HUGE, huge Trump supporters. “MAGA, baby. MAGA! We ridin that Trump train!” (CPO was mimicking what he heard from Trump supporters while on the job.) It’s not out of the realm of possibility that that could’ve happened, not at all.
KB: What are your thoughts regarding those who think that there should’ve been a lot more arrests made the day of the insurrection?
CPO: I read a couple comments and shit on Facebook—“Why aren’t y’all arresting them? Why aren’t y’all arresting them?” When you arrest a person one officer, maybe two, takes one person away, put them in a car, and you drive away to jail. Look at the pictures of the crowd, and [then] look at the number of [Capitol Police] officers. How the fuck was that going to happen [with] everything that was going on? There was no fucking way it was possible to be fucking arresting ANYbody. It wasn’t even logical to do that shit.
KB: In your professional opinion, do you see a difference in how things were handled on [January 6, 2021] versus how things—at the very least—look when it comes to Black Lives Matter rallies or any other type of protest concerning Black people?
CPO: Not necessarily; because when you look at the Black Lives Matter rallies, there were no arrests [at the Capitol], there was no violence, there was no use of force and stuff like that—none of that was done. Now when you talk about Lafayette Square and Trump tear-gassing them and shit like that, absolutely there’s a big difference. But when it comes to Capitol Police, which I can only speak on, there wasn’t really much of a difference. The way the [rioters] were, I’d rather deal with Black Lives Matter ANY day, than those fucking terrorists [from January 6].
KB: So to be clear: when comparing how Black people have been treated at protests versus how white people were treated at the insurrection, the major difference is that Capitol Police wasn’t involved with the Black Lives Matter protests nearly to the extent that you were involved in this one.
KB: Okay. So the militarization that you see [on social media] has nothing to do with Capitol Police and you can’t speak on that because—
CPO: It was really frustrating, because a lot of people were sharing that picture that says how Capitol Police dealt with Black Lives Matter. I’m like, wait a minute: that’s at the Lincoln Memorial.
KB: Yes—you know that, and I know that, but people in Oklahoma probably don’t.
KB: In light of the events on January 6, conservative Twitter is all abuzz with the “hypocrisy” of the “defund the police” movement. How do you think we can reconcile the need to defund the police with the need to strengthen Capitol Police? What does that mean?
CPO: That’s the thing: I don’t think the whole “defund the police” [movement] applies to every police department. Like, Capitol Police isn’t out there—they have their run-ins with the community. They absolutely do. But like I said in the beginning: our mission is different than keeping the streets clean. That’s not our mission. Like the Supreme Court police—defund the Supreme Court police? Based on the same reason you want to defund Metropolitan Police? Based on that? Is that what you want? That makes no sense. All “defund the police” chants aren’t created equal, if that makes any sense.
Part III: The Insurrection
We’re in a fight with them. They are storming the inaugural stage. Wish us luck.
KB: Are you able to walk me through your day, specifically, on January 6, 2021?
CPO: So it was a normal day. We knew that a protest was coming because they were going to be certifying the election results. That was just going to be a busy day, anyway—knowing people are coming to object to that. There was nothing on our radar on the officer level that anything outside of a normal protest was coming.
KB: When you say “on the officer level,” you mean YOUR level?
KB: Okay. So you’re not aware of whether it was a higher level?
CPO: Correct. As an officer, there was nothing that stated that this is about to happen. We knew it was a protest. All you had to do is watch the news and you saw that. We knew a lot of people was gonna be in town, so we were just like, “Ugh…alright, here they come. Let’s get them out of here so we can go home,” whatever. We never thought in a million years that we would be dealing with it on the level we are now. Everybody’s watching the rally on the news or whatever. And Trump is encouraging them to walk down [to the Capitol building]. By that time, there were people already at the Capitol—
KB: By the time Trump said something?
CPO: When [Trump] was giving his speech, there were people at the Capitol who didn’t go to the speech. But that’s nothing unusual. They’re there, they’re chanting “Stop the Steal,” and they got their Trump flags and Confederate flags waving. People with Nazi shirts on and shit…
KB: So how many people do you think were at the Capitol [building] while Trump is giving his speech?
CPO: 200 maybe, or so? They weren’t all gathered in a localized, centralized location. They were all over the place. So it’s hard to say.
So the speech ended or whatever, and we got people that called out on the radio [normally] like, “All right, I got a group of Trump supporters headed towards the Capitol from this location.” They’re calling out, calling out [on the radio]. And next thing you know, all hell has broken loose! And then you got people calling from all different directions. “Hey, we got these people here! There’s people here! We have people here!”
KB: And about what time was that?
CPO: Time is a blur to me. All I know is I remember something around 1 o’clock. I texted a loved one or some close friends around 1 pm. 1:30 or so. I texted them, “We’re in a fight with them. They are storming the inaugural stage. Wish us luck.” By that time, every officer is calling on the radio, “Hey, they breached the fence line,” which is just a regular barrier. If anybody wants to get over it, they could, it was basically [there to] show that you’re not allowed here.
KB: Right—like a sign-equivalent?
CPO: Yeah. Now every officer at that time is calling out everybody [on the radio] like, “HELP! HELP! HELP! We need all the units we got here.” And as that was happening, we had some other units call out a pipe bomb that was found at the RNC (Republican National Committee). So we’re diverting officers to that location.
KB: Now, is the RNC a part of the Capitol [building] itself?
We never thought in a million years that we would be dealing with it on the level we are now.
CPO: Yes, it’s on the Capitol grounds. It’s not “part” of the Capitol, but it falls within our jurisdiction. So we got units responding to that, which took away a little bit of manpower because we gotta close roads, we gotta get people safe. Because this may or may not be the real deal—it may be a real freakin bomb. Then ten minutes later, we get a call for a bomb at the DNC (Democratic National Committee).
KB: Now where is that in respect to the RNC?
CPO: 3 or 4 blocks. So we had to divert even more units to take care of that. As that’s going on, I’m responding to the crowds and I got involved in throwing tear gas, OC spray, mace, pepper spray—all that stuff. It’s like a freaking war zone, so I can’t hear my radio. I just know that we’re fighting with this crowd on one side of the building.
KB: Let me pause you real quick—are you equipped to be throwing the tear gas and whatnot?
CPO: What we had—every officer is equipped with just, you know, regular mace: OC spray. Pepper spray. So we’re out there using that. There was a request to get “less than lethal” out there, [which includes] rubber bullet guns. Guns that have pepper balls in them—stuff like that. Thank God for MPD (Metropolitan Police Department) because [when] they came, they had some of their stuff already on site—on them—we had to wait on ours to get there.
KB: You’re telling me that the only things that Capitol Police were equipped with were things that are, for the most part, everyday stuff such as your nightstick and mace?
CPO: Correct. I remember there was a time where a flashbang went off, and [Capitol Police officers] went on the radio and said, “We just had an explosion”; because flashbangs are loud, especially if you’re right next to them. And another unit on the radio said, “That was MPD.” MPD was throwing their crowd-control measures into the crowd. Thank God for MPD, because ours had not arrived yet. We’re still out there fighting with these guys with just our nightsticks and our big ol’ riot shields.
KB: Okay, and you’re telling me that you were not able to access the less than lethal equipment on the Capitol Police side—
CPO: We were waiting on it. What makes that even more difficult, is that the crowd we were facing had their own less than lethal stuff that they were deploying at us. They had rubber bullet guns. They had gas grenades. They had smoking cherry bombs that they were throwing at us. They had tear gas—they had bear spray. They had gas masks on.
KB: And you guys did not have any gas masks on?
CPO: We did not have gas masks. If we didn’t have our freaking face masks on [because of] COVID-19, who knows? A lot of officers would’ve been taken out of the fight a lot sooner.
KB: Got it. Okay, what happened next?
CPO: So MPD is helping us out. At this time, it’s an all-out fight—it looks like a warzone. There’s gas. There’s smoke. There’s officers choking because they can’t breathe. There’s explosions going off that are flashbangs and concussion grenades. There’s cherry bombs being thrown. It’s just a warzone—there are Confederate flags being waved. It’s a freaking warzone.
By that time [officers] started calling on the radio that [rioters] were attempting to breach the other side of the building, and [now] we’re fighting on both sides of the building.
There’s so many people out there. So many—the pictures didn’t even do it justice to just how many people there [were]. They’re flanking—they’re surrounding the entire building—it’s being flanked! So not only are they on the East and the West; they’re on the North and the South, and now they’re climbing up walls—they’re climbing up walls where we don’t have units! They’re scaling the building.
KB: Would you say that this was coordinated?
CPO: You’re fucking right it was coordinated! Abso-fucking-lutely! Everything from the bombs being planted as diversions. Everything from that, to them attacking at the right time on both sides. It was absolutely planned and coordinated. We got all officers saying that [rioters are] attempting to come through the doors—they’re breaching the steps, we’re overrun.
They had rubber bullet guns. They had gas grenades. They had smoking cherry bombs that they were throwing at us.
It’s just so much radio traffic going on and everybody is screaming for help: “I got 200 people here!” And then somebody else is like, “Well, I got 500 people here!” And then someone else said, “I got 2 more hundred people here!” And everybody is just like, calling out and it’s just not ending. It’s not ending. Everybody is—EVERYbody is overrun.
The doors [aren’t] where they entered in. They broke windows. They broke windows—officers weren’t even thinking [about] manning [the windows] because they’re also on the second and third levels of the building! We’re not manning it—there’s no officers posted there.
KB: Because you’re already on the ground with the other protesters?
CPO: Exactly. So as we’re hearing reports of officers that are in the building: “They’re breaching! They’re breaching! They’re breaching the windows—they broke the window!” You’re sending more and more units to respond to people that are in the building. So we’re responding to that; and in doing so, you’re taking away officers that are out there to fight! And I couldn’t believe my eyes: I said, “What is the freakin endgame? How does this end? How does this END?!”
I’m basically trying not to die.
KB: How did you get from on the ground, where you were posted fighting off those rioters—how did you get from there to securing the building?
CPO: MPD mainly took the lead on the outside of the building. Once [the rioters] started to breach the building, a large number of Capitol officers that were on the outside responded inside to start to fight [them] inside the building.
KB: Were you one of those officers?
CPO: Yeah, I ended up fighting inside, also. There may have been some MPD inside—it wasn’t like that’s how it was planned to be. Because it was CLEAR there was no plan, because we had leaders and management on the radio saying, “We need a plan.” In the middle of us getting our ass whooped, we had people asking for a plan: “What’s the plan? What’s the plan?”
We go inside, and we’re in a fight [with the rioters] inside the [Capitol]. There’s tear gas and pepper spray inside the building. Anywhere in the Rotunda, you’re coughing because we’re using tear gas in a closed space, and pepper spray to try to keep them from breaching the Rotunda door.
So we got a large presence there, holding [down] that door. But as officers are struggling to secure that door, there [were] already protesters in the building that entered through other locations. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a spaghetti strainer. It was so frustrating and leadership did not have a plan.
I’m basically trying not to die. I’m grabbing other officers. We’re moving in two, three, four-man teams and we’re running and any [rioter] we encounter we’re saying, “Get the fuck out! Get the FUCK out!” A lot of [officers]—management included—were just sitting there in a look of disbelief, which I get. At one point, so many officers just looked at [the rioters].
I remember seeing an officer—looked at the guys and said, “Look, will you please go home? Just please go home. I’m not going to tell you to leave. I’m not fighting with you. Just get the fuck out—just leave. Please? Can you do me a solid and just go the fuck home?” An officer said that. I witnessed an officer say that to a protester—to a group of protesters.”
KB: Did the protesters respond?
CPO: “Sorry, man. We can’t do that buddy. We can’t do that.”
But now’s not the time [for officers] to just be looking around: Let’s go! [Officers] are probably scared. And honestly? If you weren’t scared, I don’t want you around me, because that shit was scary. It was fucking scary. So I came over there in true OG fashion, flexed on them and said, “Get the FUCK OUT!”
There was a moment where I told [officers] that I saw to take a second and text their loved ones saying that they’re ok. And that was maybe 4:30, 4:45? 5 o’clock? Then we got back inside [the Capitol building], and we still have protestors in there.
What is the freakin endgame? How does this end? How does this END?!
At one point, we’re so exhausted. We’re exhausted. We’re struggling—we got soaked in pepper spray, we’re fatigued, our legs are aching, we can’t walk. We ain’t got no voice, because we’ve been screaming. Officers [felt] defeated, but—I want to stress this so much—as defeated as we [felt], we kept fighting. Into the dark of night. It gets dark early, so at 5 o’clock it’s dark. We’re still fighting and it’s dark.
KB: Where are you in all of this?
CPO: Oh, I’m still fighting! I’m looking for work. Work means I’m looking for anything that needs to be done: Let’s go. Let’s go! “Officer! Officer! I’m calling for help in this location.” I took off running—let’s go, let’s go! So I’m just responding with a lot of other officers. But [by then] we had a lot more help, and we was ready to go.
Backup arrived from other federal agencies: ATF, FBI, Park Police, US Marshals. When we saw those guys, it was literally like thank God y’all are here. It’s like once [federal backup arrived], we got a second wind, and guys were ready to go. We just need[ed] some help. We just need[ed] some fucking help.
KB: So upon getting help, how did it shift in terms of your interaction with the terrorists? Were they actually listening? Did you have to work harder?
CPO: Oh, so at that point it was great because [the other agencies] were moving in teams. They came there with a plan. They came there with a plan, and they were ready to rock, and they was ready to go. So it was amazing to see them, because they had four five and six-man teams and they were moving and clearing out the Capitol. But obviously they don’t know the building, so they had like one or two Capitol officers showing where everything was. And officers—like I said, we’re just trying to recover, but we had help. We had help now and our goal was [to] get them motherfuckers out the building. Everybody.
KB: How did the day end for you?
CPO: Once we finally had a minute, now the call on the radio was “No, we don’t have protesters here. Hey, let’s get these doors secure now.” Everybody’s out, now let’s keep his perimeter secured. We got doors that are off the hinges, windows that are broke. We had officers posted now at those windows, so more people don’t come back around. The officers outside are keeping them at bay. [The rioters] are starting to fall back, also.
KB: So upon everybody leaving the Capitol building itself, there were still people out there?
CPO: Not in the [same] capacity. By that time the numbers are dwindling; it’s a couple people here, a couple people there. But as far as actual strength in numbers to actually do something? No, they were done. They had made their statement.
KB:The next day, what were you feeling?
CPO: Defeat? How the fuck this happen? At that moment, I didn’t feel that management has failed me or let me down. No, it’s not possible, right? It’s no way that management would allow that to happen, right? Something of that magnitude? There’s no way they could have known about this. Management would never do that! They would not lay us down to get our ass whooped. So at that point I’m like, shit. How the fuck did this happen?
Part IV: A Black Life In Blue
We just need[ed] some help. We just need[ed] some fucking help.
KB: With you being a Black police officer, did you encounter any racism that day? Because you are covered up and all these things—were people even able to identify you as Black [for the rioters] to even exhibit racism?
CPO: I was. I got called the n-word, a lot. I was called a NIGGER! People wore Nazi flags, that symbol for white power—whatever that the circle was. I don’t even know; they put their index finger with their thumb and they do something. I’m not an expert in the signals, but they were doing those hand signals that everybody says they’re bad, you know?
KB: Aside from the obvious—having backup sooner and things like that, what do you think needs to change as far as protocol or leadership? What do you think needs to change to make sure that something like this does not happen again?
CPO: Whoever is the Capitol Police chief going forward, they need to have a “Come to Jesus” moment with members of Congress. It’s difficult because it’s “The People’s House”; that’s what it’s called. You there’s no fence around it. You could just walk up to the front door. You can’t really go in just like that, but you can just walk up, and just be right there when Congressmen go on votes and stuff like that. You can be right outside [the door] and see some of the most powerful people on the Earth. Okay, if they want to keep it [that way], that’s fine.
I think about all that dumb shit that we put above security.
But they gotta put us in a position to be successful, and they’re not. They tie our hands a lot. They tie our hands so much at that place: “Hey, we want to have 10,000 people there. We want you to let them all do what they want to do…but y’all can’t be mean to them. You can’t do this. You can’t do that.” There’s too many restrictions. Our hands are tied so much. We have a tough job to do, a very tough job to do.
KB: For sure. What does untying those hands look like?
CPO: That’s hard to say. I’ve never really thought about it—I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve ever been here.
KB: Got it. So your feelings that day versus today based off of what has come out between the videos—all that stuff. Like, how do you feel?
CPO: I’m angry now. I’m angry. I’m angry at our management; I’m angry at the Capitol Police Board, to include the sergeant-at-arms. I think about all that dumb shit that we put above security.
As a Black person, it was the definition of privilege.
KB: What exactly do you think they put above security?
CPO: Optics. It’s been rumored that they didn’t want—when the National Guard finally got there—they wanted them on the outside of the building, because they don’t want the optics of military securing/taking over the building. That’s weird; I don’t have any proof of that. But the fact that it doesn’t surprise me is telling. I’m not even surprised like…you know what? That shit probably is true. It may not be, but the fact that it has a possibility of being true? Give me a fucking break.
KB: You mentioned something about you being pissed off at the Capitol Police Board. Can you explain the intricacies of that as best you can, and why you would be upset with that?
CPO: The report that I saw that came out today [said] that our Chief requested the National Guard—requested help two days in advance. There is also a report that came out where some lieutenant in the military says that our Chief is not telling the truth. That’s a lie. What I think that maybe the LIE is that the Chief did do that—he did request help. And the denial was from the police board and not necessarily the military.
KB: As a Black man in this country, how do you feel about what happened on Wednesday?
CPO: As a Black person, it was the definition of privilege. If privilege was a person, it would look like every motherfucker that was in there. It would look like every person that was in that fucking rally. That’s what privilege looks like.
I remember confronting an angry group of protesters—TERRORISTS: “So because we don’t agree with you, you’re just going to kill us? If I didn’t vote for Trump, do I gotta die? Does my will and MY want not matter?” I’m angry, I am angry. I said, “So I got to DIE because I disagree with you fucks?!” And then one of the [rioters] said, “Oh HE voted for BIDEN! This nigger voted for Biden!”
They walked in that bitch talking about “This my fucking house!” HUH?! Whose house?! I said, “This is MY fucking house and I’M in charge—get THE FUCK out!” And it was very disheartening. Because I’m an American also, and that shit hurt my heart. This is my country—MY country. This is my shit. Y’all just visiting. This is my house.
KB: I mean, if we’re going to keep it a buck, Black people built the Capitol—literally.
CPO: WE built that shit. Black people built that shit, man. And you got the nerve to be waving a Confederate flag in the fucking Capitol. I’m not trying to hear that—fuck out of here, man. My people built that shit. This ain’t your house. This MY fucking house.
KB: I’m a very visual person. So you recounting what happened, I can see [everything]; and as a DC native I can really see it, and it’s just adding layers to how frustrated I am as an American citizen and a Black person, too. You know? But I’m just glad you’re okay.
CPO: Thank you.
KB: I’m just glad you’re okay.
CPO: I was going to get home. I was gonna make it home, I was coming home.