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WASHINGTON D.C., USA - JANUARY 6: US President Donald Trumps supporters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers... WASHINGTON D.C., USA - JANUARY 6: US President Donald Trumps supporters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington D.C., United States on January 06, 2021. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were set to sign off Wednesday on President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory in what was supposed to be a routine process headed to Inauguration Day. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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I mentioned a few days ago that the most compelling part of the Jan 6 committee hearings so far for me has been the description of the particulars of how the breach of the Capitol complex happened. The story is usually presented as something like this. There was a big group of angry and potentially violent Trumpers. There was a much smaller group, maybe as few as a few dozens of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers with a more focused ideology, a clearer plan of the insurrection and so forth. They were both more eager to get violent and had a lot more experience getting violent. But they were in the extreme minority of the people up there. So even though they’re now the ones facing serious charges including seditious conspiracy they are only a small part of what happened.

The committee did a good job of explaining that that’s not at all what happened. In fact, these two groups were acting as the command and control directing the mob, actually using paramilitary drill and planning to direct the crowd, punch through vulnerable entrance points and so forth and then have the larger mob follow them. I’ve followed this pretty closely and even I still had the sense that the progression of events that day, in terms of the escalation of violence was more organic. That’s wrong. The Proud Boys especially were basically directing the events.

The committee largely just asserted this. They had some details and I think a few maps. But mostly within the confines of a hearing they were just asserting it: this is what we learned from our investigation. Perhaps in a latter hearing they’ll go into more detail. Yesterday I noticed this video assembled by The New York Times. It’s really must see work. They pull together a trove of different videos, break them down to show the role of different Proud Boy leaders and soldiers and then weave these together with court documents from the on-going cases against the various insurrectionists. It tells the story above in powerful and convincing detail.

In fact, it shows an additional point I hadn’t understood. The mechanics of the breakthrough into the Capitol have been explained either as poor preparation by the Capitol Police or the individual heroism of Capitol Police officers. So it’s either a negligent failure or an heroic one. But this reconstruction of events shows something a bit different. At several points the attempted breakthroughs failed. The defenders were able to reinforce their positions, bring in more personnel in riot gear, etc. At those points, the Proud Boys leaders directing the assaults drew back from the attack points to where they could see the whole complex more clearly. They reevaluated and chose another entry point to attack. They then issued orders to had picked members of their team to refocus on other more vulnerable entry points. It’s very much a military operation.

As I said, this wasn’t just an angry mob overwhelming outnumbered defenders. There was a lot more command and control than that. And that command and control was coming from the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers collaborated in their planning and both groups bought caches of weapons and so forth. But at least from the Times reconstruction what I’m describing here was mostly the Proud Boys.

Here’s the link to the Times video. As I said, it’s really something you must watch.

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