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Protecting Mass Gathering Venues and Assets

Best Practice Guide

Lessons Learned from the United States Capitol Hill Attacks

In U.S. politics, the official certification of the Electoral College results of the presidential election is meant to be a staid, ceremonial event. The 6 January 2021 certification of then-president-elect’s Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory was anything but. That day, throngs of supporters of outgoing president, Donald Trump, marched on the U.S. Capitol, where both houses of Congress were meeting to certify the results.

The events themselves come with a backstory. Since the November 2020 election, Donald Trump had been claiming far and wide that the results of the vote were fraudulent. On noon of the certification day, his tone was no different. Indeed, he addressed a crowd of his supporters in the capital, claiming that “this election was stolen from you, from me, from the country”. Soon after, protestors began marching down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol building.

The protestors encountered little resistance from the peace-keeping forces meant to protect the Capitol. That’s even though prior to the protests, social media had been alight with warnings that the protests would be anything but peaceful. Indeed, weeks before the New York Police Department had sent a packet of material to the U.S. Capitol Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Field Office, replete with raw intelligence indicating the likelihood of violence on 6 January. Even the day before the certification, the FBI Field Office in Norfolk, Virginia had issued another warning of violence.

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