WASHINGTON, DC – Hours before President Donald Trump gave his now-infamous speech to the pro-Trump crowd leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, U.S. Park Police officers barricaded themselves inside the Washington Monument as protesters surrounded them banging on doors and windows.
The officers made an arrest and as they secured the suspect, a group of about 150 Trump supporters broke out of the larger crowd and began shouting at the officers. A woman can be heard on video shouting:
“Get the F*** off of him. You wouldn’t do this to Antifa or BLM.”
In another TikTok video before he was taken away, a Trump supporter murmurs about the police “…rush them. There’s more of us than them.”
“You piece of shit,” they yell. “You wouldn’t do this to Antifa or BLM!” pic.twitter.com/fJRg2cWFtI
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) January 18, 2021
Vastly outnumbered by the protesters, approximately 12 officers and the prisoner retreated into the visitor area of the Washington Memorial and locked the door.
An officer inside the Washington Monument videotaped the mob banging on windows and doors as police called for reinforcements. One protester held a sign up in the window reading, “Stop the steal,” a common phrase used by Trump supporters claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by the Democrats.
Officers there said the hostility caused them to huddle up inside a visitor screening room. Trump fans carrying Stop the Steal signs then banged against the glass
Aided by USPP on horses, the group got their “butts out of there” before things got worse by sneaking out the back pic.twitter.com/ERWYgWB4Qf
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) January 18, 2021
Mounted units of the U.S. Park police eventually arrived and were able to force the mob back. As police began to re-establish control at the monument, a frantic call was received from Capitol Police reporting the U.S. Capitol was under siege.
The Park Police responded but could only send a small contingent of officers. Understaffed, the Park Police had to keep most of their officers in their current positions protecting other sites around Washington.
Officers said being so severely understaffed made a tragic difference in the ability to fight back against the invaders at the Capitol.
On 1/6, hours before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, US Park Police monitoring rallygoers at the Washington Monument were already feeling overwhelmed
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) January 18, 2021
One officer who had been trapped in the Washington Monument told Buzzfeed News:
“We physically didn’t have the ability to put more officers on that detail. That was all we had at that point.”
With national attention on the response of the U.S. Capitol Police, the National Guard, and the Washington Metropolitan Police to the Capitol building attack, the U.S. Park Police feel they are again falling through the cracks.
NEW w/ @bri_sacks : On the day of the Capitol riot, US Park Police staff were also overwhelmed by protesters. Some had to take cover in the Washington Monument. Records and interviews show they’ve understaffed and under resourced for yrs https://t.co/n7KlDwoCdR
— Rosalind Adams (@RosalindZAdams) January 17, 2021
The U.S. Park Police is one of the oldest uniformed federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. The Park Police are responsible for the protection and law enforcement of the National Park Service.
One of the few law enforcement agencies with both federal and state authority, the agency protects many of the landmarks and monuments in the United States. Other than the monuments in Washington DC, some of these sites include the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
#FollowFriday. U.S. Park Police are charged with protecting National Icons such as the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and other well known monuments and memorials. #usparkpolice@USParkPolice #FLETC pic.twitter.com/MK27ioBeLA
— FLETC (@FLETC) July 5, 2019
The Park Police have been warning government officials that they were undermanned for years. Part of the Department of Interior, the Park Police is tasked with protecting the nation’s National Park Service sites, including approximately 600 First Amendment demonstrations annually.
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Since 2001, the agency has seen its manpower reduced by almost one-third, to only 508 officers today. In June 2020, The United States Park Police Labor Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) issued a press release pointing out the understaffing problems facing the Park Police when the National Park Service was criticized for not enforcing pandemic social distancing rules at Yellowstone National Park in June:
“As a whole, NPS law enforcement is dangerously understaffed. They do not have the resources required to safely and effectively perform their basic mission. This has been an operational reality for decades. Please be aware that Yellowstone Wildlife Distances are routinely violated with impunity by numerous visitors.
“Social distancing enforcement operations would require drastic changes to visitation procedures. These changes would require hiring significantly more law enforcement and other personnel to operate effectively.”
Buzzfeed News was told by sources inside the Park Police that only 200 officers had been assigned to the planned protest in Washington DC on January 6, despite clear intelligence warnings of over 30,000 attendees with high potential for violence.
The FOP said that understaffing presented significant issues on January 6. Local FOP Vice President Michael Shalton, who is also a veteran Park Police officer, said:
“People were screaming for help on the radio. It sounded like officers were constantly asking for help in certain areas and things were totally out of control.”
U.S. Congress Under Attack, Trump Supporters Enter Capitol Building ][%
–#Election2020 #UnitedStates @realDonaldTrump #UnitedStatesCapitol @GOP #USA #MAGA ][% pic.twitter.com/gFUJP0mw4o
— A Com News – Europe (@AComNewsEurope) January 6, 2021
Officer Shalton was posted in Virginia during the Capitol attack, but said he was monitoring police radio traffic and heard “pure chaos.”
Despite multiple U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General reports indicating staffing and financial problems at the Park Police, the leadership denies there is an issue. Park Service spokesperson Sgt. Roselyn Norment said:
“In advance of the despicable acts that took place on January 6, the U.S. Park Police did bring in additional personnel. We were fully and appropriately staffed to carry out our responsibilities. (Park Police) fulfilled all resource requests made by US Capitol Police.”
The police were not “kinder” to white rioters at Capitol Hill. They were outnumbered and surrounded. Q: why was the police presence so low? Additionally, BLM deliberately targetted police stations & officers. Were angry over Floyd. https://t.co/St1vbhz1G7
— Cotic 📱+ 🚘 = ❌ (@Cotic) January 20, 2021
Multiple reports by the Inspector General identified decreased staffing resulted in the Park Police’s inability to protect monuments and conduct normal patrol duties. A report in 2008 determined that officers did not always receive the necessary training and, at times, officers had to use their own cars because of shortages of patrol vehicles. Reports in 2002 and 2006 had similar findings.
In a report issued in February 2006, the Inspector General said:
“We found significant problems throughout DOIs law enforcement programs and identified improvements needed in the leadership, organization, control, and accountability.”
— PEER (@PEERorg) March 8, 2017
Teresa Chambers served as Chief of the U.S. Park Police from February 2002 until December 2003, when she was fired for speaking to the media about staffing and budgetary problems. In December 2003, she spoke to Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold. In the article, she expresses concerns about the Park Police:
“It’s fair to say where it’s green, it belongs to us in Washington, D.C. Well, there’s not enough of us to go around to protect those green spaces anymore.”
— Fred Burton (@fred_burton) January 18, 2021
She said that her then-620 officer department needed a “major expansion,” suggesting a complement of 1,400 officers. That expansion never can. Chambers was fired but appealed. She was re-instated as Chief of the department in January 2011 and retired in 2013.
During her interview with the Washington Post, she made a statement that foreshadowed the attack at the U.S. Capitol on January 6:
“My greatest fear is that harm or death will come to a visitor or employee at one of our parks, or that we’re going to miss a key thing at one of our icons.”
Today: The Senate agreed by UC “a resolution honoring the memory of officer Brian David Sicknick of the United States Capitol Police for his selfless acts of heroism on the grounds of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021”
Read more here: https://t.co/mR8g53kW2K
— Chris Cioffi (@ReporterCioffi) January 19, 2021
During the attack at the Capitol, five people lost their lives. The deaths included Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died of injuries sustained attempting to repel the attack while massively outnumbered.
One of the Park Police SWAT members who made it to the Capitol that day said he only counted 20 of his fellow Park Police officers. The officers used pepper balls in a futile attempt to hold back the massive push of invaders. The officer commented:
“The protesters were hitting hard. We were vastly outnumbered, and several officers were injured.”
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Author: Scott A. Davis