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January 6th, 2021, Storming of the United States Capitol, also known as the 2021 "Save America" Rally D.C. Protest or the January 6th Insurrection, refers to the riots and demonstrations that occurred around Washington D.C. on early January 6th, 2021, due to supporters of Donald Trump alleging that there was widespread voter fraud or sabotage during the 2020 presidential election in order to help Joe Biden win. Although evidence disproved many of these claims, supporters asserted that Trump was robbed of the election due to vote-counting fraud they believe took place in several swing states.
A decentralized network of groups, including the Stop the Steal movement, began hosting rallies in D.C. on January 5th ahead of the Electoral College certification, which erupted into violent clashes with police near the Capitol Building the following day that caused a lockdown in the senate and an evacuation of Vice President Mike Pence. Five people died during the event, including a woman named Ashli Babbitt who was fatally shot by police while trying to climb through a window inside the Capitol Building and a police officer who died from injuries during the clashes.
On January 5th, 2021, supporters of President Trump, organized by the Stop the Steal movement and other groups, began holding rallies and demonstrations in Washington D.C. a day before the Electoral College certification took place in Congress, which would certify that Joe Biden won the presidential election. Demonstrators asserted that the election was stolen as speakers in the crowd repeated election conspiracy theories throughout the night, which were initially mostly peaceful into Wednesday morning with few arrests made.
On January 6th, demonstrations continued leading up to Trump’s “Save America” rally on Wednesday morning with tens of thousands in attendance to hear the president’s speech. Around noon, Trump took the stage and spoke to the crowd where he continued making claims about winning the election.
Shortly after his speech ended, the supporters shifted toward the Capitol Building and began marching on Congress where numerous violent clashes between police and protestors broke out as they moved beyond police barriers and into the Capitol. Several arrests were also made over the course of the day leading up to escalating violence.
Protesters Storm Capitol Building
Around 1 p.m., coverage on social media of the supporters storming the grounds of the Capitol as they tore through fences and barricades began sweeping the web. One such video was tweeted by Twitter user Julio Rosas, which received half a million views, 4,500 likes and 3,000 retweets in three hours (seen below).
Trump supporters are storming the grounds of the Capitol Building and tearing down fencing. pic.twitter.com/rEBIC9IUJq— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) January 6, 2021
Another video from Twitter user KBoomhauer posted around 1:14 p.m. showed the clashes turning violent between Capitol police and protesters, which received over 527,000 views, 923 likes and 910 retweets in three hours (shown below).
After pushing past police outside the Capitol steps, senators inside were still debating the certification of the presidential election until several protesters breached security and entered the building by breaking down windows and doors. The Senate then halted proceedings after an announcement from police that protesters were in the building and a lockdown began as Congress was evacuated and given gas masks.
Several images denoting various protesters wearing Pepe the Frog garb or flying Kekistan flags were captured by users on social media, including one from Twitter user willsommer that received over 500 likes in seven hours (seen below, left). Another from Twitter user kevinroose captured a photo of a protester wearing a mask and flag outside the Capitol (seen below, right).
Another viral video showing a livestream of police taking selfies with protesters was also widely shared online that day. Twitter user bubbaprog reposted it, receiving over 10.8 million views and 156,000 likes in two hours (shown below).
Cops are taking selfies with the terrorists. pic.twitter.com/EjkQ83h1p2— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 6, 2021
Senate Shooting and Deaths
As a group of protesters attempted to break through a door of the Capitol, reports emerged of shots fired in the building resulting in one woman being shot in the neck by police. Twitter user TaylerUSA tweeted footage of the shooting shortly after, which was viewed over 2.1 million times in one hour (seen below).
A young woman was just shot in the neck right besides me in the Capitol Building pic.twitter.com/hLQo4IP8J1— Tayler Hansen (@TaylerUSA) January 6, 2021
Later in the day, it was confirmed by several media outlets that the woman was killed in the shooting. D.C. police later identified three people who died during the event, including a 34-year-old from Georgia, a 50-year-old from Pennsylvania and a 55-year-old from Alabama, bringing the total to four dead and more than 50 injured. Shortly after the additional reported deaths, it was then confirmed that a Capitol Police officer also died after being injured in clashes the day before. Officer Brian D. Sicknick was reportedly injured while engaging with protesters before collapsing and dying later in the night at the hospital.
Trump's Statement and Response
After continued violence between protesters and police, Trump tweeted a video of his response where he told protesters to go home while also continuing his rhetoric that he won the election. The video received over 10.5 million views in an hour, as well as a disclaimer that his statements of election fraud were disputed (shown below).
Trump Suspended On Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media
In the evening on January 6th, following the curfew in D.C. at 6 p.m. and dispersal of the protesters, Twitter announced that it was suspending Trump's Twitter account for 12 hours in an announcement on its Twitter Safety account, receiving nearly a quarter of a million likes and 90,000 retweets in 22 hours (seen below).
Shortly after, Facebook then announced that it would place a block on his accounts for both Facebook and Instagram indefinitely with a lengthy explanation posted by Mark Zuckerberg that received nearly 1 million likes, 245,000 comments and 175,000 shares in just six hours (shown below).
Several images of the protesters walking around the Capitol, entering offices, the chamber and viewing computers of politicians or stealing items also began circulating social media during the event. Many of these later evolved into an array of meme formats.
I'm In Nancy Pelosi's Office
One such viral image was shared by Twitter user ElijahSchaffer who claimed they were inside Nancy Pelosi’s office viewing her computer screen (seen below, left). The tweet has since been deleted but became an exploitable meme format where users swapped various images onto the screen (seen below, right).
Protesters In Senate Chamber Dais and Lounging In Desks
Other images of protesters in the chamber or in offices were also widely spread online, including someone shouting from the dais shared by Twitter user igorbobic, which was similarly used in memes (shown below, left). Numerous images of people lounging at desks in the Capitol were also spread, including one from Twitter user PUNISHEDASH (shown below, right).
Man Carrying Podium
A photo of a man walking in the Capitol Building while stealing a podium adorned with a U.S. seal was similarly memed by many online after Twitter user AnthonyQuintano tweeted a photo of them, receiving over 300 likes and 400 retweets in roughly two hours (shown below).
Another man, later identified as Jake Angeli, was photographed wearing a fur hood adorned with horns that also went viral after his image was shared, including a tweet from Twitter user BDSixsmith, which received over 13,000 likes and 3,600 retweets in two hours (seen below, left). Memes depicting the Viking Protester, such as a Wojak variant (seen below, right), spread online shortly after.
Elizabeth From Knoxville
Elizabeth From Knoxville refers to a viral video of a supporter of Donald Trump claiming to have been maced by law enforcement during the 2021 storming of the Capitol. The video inspired jokes, memes, remixes as well as the "Onion Towel" conspiracy theory, alleging that she dabs her eyes with an onion in the video to induce tears.
Tighter Security Than The Capitol
Tighter Security Than The Capitol refers to jokes comparing the apparent ease with which rioters infiltrated the Capitol during the "Save America" rally to places with tougher security. Comments about the inadequate security at the Capitol also led to a resurgence of Storm Area 51 jokes, as people pondered if the satirical stunt would have worked.