Washington, 16 Jan 2021 (AFP) – Organized columnist attackers, a woman shouting instructions into a megaphone and suspicious visits the day before. Investigators ask whether the January 6 attack on the United States Congress was planned, with the help of internal sources.
Videos, photos and online communications may point to an alleged conspiracy.
A video shows how more than a dozen men, dressed in clothing similar to those of the assault forces, climb the Capitol steps in a row, through the dense crowd towards the building’s doors.
In another, a woman in a pink hat gives instructions with a megaphone to others inside Congressional headquarters, telling them where to go.
And several men, including two who managed to enter the Senate Chamber, carried strips of plastic that could be used to hold hostages.
Some officials believe that many of the pro-Trump protesters who broke into the offices of Congressional top lawmakers, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seemed to know how to get around the labyrinthine Capitol.
“They knew where to go,” veteran Democrat James Clyburn told CBS News. “Yes, someone inside those buildings was an accomplice in that.”
Prosecutors have arrested dozens of people so far and say more than 200 can be charged. But they did not use the words “conspiracy” to describe this unprecedented attack.
Michael Sherwin, the Washington federal prosecutor who oversees the investigation, said on Friday that they are seeing “traces of organization”, including communications between those inside and outside the building.
According to him, the priority of the security forces is to ascertain whether there was “general control and command” and “organized teams” in the invasion of Congress.
“It will take weeks, if not months, to discover the real motivations of some of these groups,” he said.
Analysts say most of the actions on Jan. 6 were chaotic, disorganized and more typical of spontaneous riots.
But lawmaker Mikie Sherrill said on Wednesday that groups of Trump supporters had toured the Capitol to “recognize him” the day before the attack, calling these visits “suspicious”.
Visitors “only gained access to the Capitol Complex through a member of Congress or their staff,” lawmakers said in a letter to Congressional security.
Matthew Feldman, of the UK’s Radical Right Analysis Center, says this is typical of political violence.
For now, with limited evidence on communications and other links, “it is impossible to establish causality,” he says.
“The people who formed the mass did not seem organized, but among them there were clearly organized people,” he adds.
Feldman notes that the crowd included members of the violent groups Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, some of whom traveled to Washington from as far away as Hawaii.
Their presence, the discovery of homemade bombs hidden nearby and the apparent threats to capture members of Congress or the vice president were signs of a “terrorism” plot, he says.
“There was an unrestrained crowd … and among them were domestic terrorists”, who were “clearly planning something”.
Pelosi mentioned on Friday the possibility of planning and coordination.
“If, in fact, it is discovered that parliamentarians were complicit in this insurrection, if they helped and incited crime, actions can be taken beyond Congress in terms of the process,” he warned.