Five people are dead, more than 80 have been arrested and the heart of America’s democracy has been shaken by a mob who were deceived into believing that an election had been “stolen” despite all evidence to the contrary.
Yet closer examination of footage from the Washington DC riots – of the gear on some of those who invaded the Capitol Building, chatter on social media and the chilling chants that echoed during the melee – suggests the siege didn’t go nearly far enough for some.
It’s very possible kidnappings were planned and elected representatives could have been harmed. Some members of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday reportedly intended to find and take Vice President Mike Pence.
“This could have been much, much worse,” said one commentator.
At times, the storming of the Capitol building on Wednesday, which houses the two houses of Congress, seemed like a circus.
As a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives was taking place to confirm Joe Biden’s electoral victory, men and women – some in fur pelts, others with bizarre horned helmets – pushed through barricades and stormed the building.
Many, seemingly drunk on the surprise of successfully entering the Capitol, gleefully ran amok.
They posed with statues for social media posts, sat in the Speaker’s chair and removed furniture as trophies, smiling as they went.
But others appeared to have a plan, and a violent one at that.
Images from the riot show some intruders wore helmets, not MAGA caps. They had bullet proof vests and more kit than the police officers who were supposed to be protecting the building.
Several people had guns. At least two rioters were seen with plastic cable ties, also known as flex-cuffs, the type used by police to quickly hold many targets at once.
It’s known that some of those most involved in the pro-Donald Trump protest movement are ex-police or military, well versed in tactics and methods to subdue those they come up against.
MIKE PENCE IN RIOTERS’ SIGHTS
Much of the anger was directed at VP Pence who played a key, but ceremonial, role on Wednesday’s session at Congress.
His job was to present the results – state-by-state – to the members of Congress who could then object to or confirm them. Mr Pence was, essentially, a glorified envelope opener.
But President Trump had falsely told his supporters that his VP had the power to overturn the results and so install him in the White House for a second term.
Mr Pence pushed back and said he simply didn’t have the “unilateral authority” to decide the election.
“I heard at least three different rioters at the Capitol say that they hoped to find Vice President Mike Pence and execute him by hanging him from a Capitol Hill tree as a traitor,” Reuters photographer Jim Bourg said in Twitter.
A gallows had been erected near the building with a makeshift noose fashioned from cables stolen from a media crew.
Screams of “where is Mike Pence? And “hang Mike Pence” rang out from some in the mob.
Outside the Capitol, footage from Business Insider picked up people saying all politicians in the building were “traitors,” they should be “hung on spikes,” “string them up,” and “they need to pay the ultimate price for their crimes.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, were also repeatedly sought out.
The FBI has released photos of a person who placed suspected pipe bombs close to the building.
Not all those who uttered threats would necessarily follow through with them. But physical violence did occur at the siege.
A photographer was assaulted and dragged through the crowd, another was thrown to the floor. Police officer Brian Sicknick died after he was hit with a fire extinguisher. A protester also died, apparently shot by police in the midst of the chaos.
Allegations of violence against politician are not new in the US.
In October, the FBI claimed it had thwarted a plan to violently other throw the Michigan State Government and kidnap and harm Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
According to documents seen by The Detroit News, it was alleged several conspirators were unhappy about the state’s coronavirus restrictions and had labelled Ms Whitmer a “tyrant”.
Her holiday home had twice been surveilled and discussions were alleged to have taken place about whether to shoot her or to kidnap her to a “secure location” and make her stand “trial”.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit.
After the charges were laid out, Ms Whitmer criticised Mr Trump for not condemning far-right groups that supported him.
“Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, a call to action.”
It is not known if any of alleged Michigan plotters attended the DC riot.
‘MUCH, MUCH WORSE’
No politician or staff in the Capitol came to harm last week. They were evacuated or barricaded themselves inside offices.
One of the most notable rioters is under arrest. Richard Barnett, 60, from Arkansas, was charged with a number of offences after he was pictured with his feet up on Ms Pelosi’s desk.
Others were tracked down after they posted videos and images of themselves in the Capitol. There are now claims that Mr Trump, himself, could be charged with inciting the deadly riot.
Some of the scenes from Wednesday’s riot were almost farcical.
“But it could have been much, much worse,” wrote Dan Kois on website Slate on Friday.
“If the rioters had been a little quicker through the doors; if senators and representatives hadn’t just moved from their joint session into separate chambers and had instead still been packed into one harder-to-evacuate room; if any number of things had happened differently, the three people next in the line of succession for the presidency might have been face-to-face with those zip-tie guys.”