Photo of the United States Capitol under a light blue sky by Caleb Perez on Unsplash
Photo by Caleb Perez on Unsplash

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is a Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. As you may have guessed, the Committee’s main purpose is to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol. This committee is also referred to as the “Select Committee”.

January 6th was not the first time there was violence at the Capitol

One

During the War of 1812, the construction of the U.S. Capitol was halted. A year into the war, the United States set fire to a capitol in colonial Canada. In 1814, the British retaliated by sending troops to burn down federal buildings in Washington D.C., including the White House and the Capitol.

Two

Leading up to the Civil War, there were many examples of congressional violence. According to History.com, in 1856, Representative Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Southerner from North Carolina, walked over to Senator Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery Northerner, and hit him with a cane. Brooks didn’t stop until Sunmer was unconscious. This is one of more than 70 violent incidents between Congressmen before the Civil War.

Three

The United States Senate website provided information about a bomb that went off in the Capitol on July 2, 1915. It was right before the July Fourth weekend. The Senate had been out of session since the previous March, and was not due to reconvene until December.

Erich Muenter, a former professor of German at Harvard University, came to the Senate building. The doors were locked, so he chose the Senate Reception Room instead. He placed a package that contained three sticks of dynamite under the Senate’s switchboard. He set a timer for a few minutes before midnight, in an effort to limit causalities.

Erich Muenter then bought a train ticket to New York City. Twenty minutes before midnight, the dynamite detonated, and Muenter was able to watch it from the train station. There was a lot of destruction of property and the building itself, but no harm came to people.

Muenter wrote a letter to the Washington Evening Star, which was published after the explosion. He wrote under an assumed name, and wrote that he hoped the detonation would “make enough noise to be heard above that clamor for war. This explosion is my appeal for peace.”

He also expressed anger at American financiers who aided Great Britain against Germany in World War II. Upon arriving in New York, Muenter went to the Long Island estate of J.P. Morgan, Jr., shot him, and ran away. (Morgan survived, and Muenter was jailed and took his own life.)

Four

The Library of Congress has information from an incident that occurred on March 1, 1954. Four Puerto Rican nationalists shot their guns from the visitor’s gallery. They reportedly yelled “Viva Puerto Rico Libre” (Long Live Puerto Rico), and randomly shot at the galleries below. Five members of Congress were injured – with one seriously injured. The nationalists wanted Puerto Rican independence.

The group of four Puerto Rican nationalists were members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. Their names were Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Meranda, Irvin Flores Rodriguez, and Andres Figuroa Cordero. They were able to enter gallery with handguns because the Capitol had few security protocols at that time.

The four were arrested, tried, and sentenced to 49 years in federal prison. In 1979, President Carter granted clemency for the remaining three who were imprisoned. The bullet holes from the shooting are still visible in the House Chamber.

Five

On March 1, 1971, a bomb exploded in the Capitol building of Washington, D.C. According to History.com, the explosion caused an estimated $300,000 in damage, but no one was hurt. A group called the Weather Underground claimed credit for the bombing. They were protesting the ongoing U.S.-supported Laos invasion. The Weather Underground were “a radical faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They advocated violent means to transform American society.”

Six

On November 11, 1983, at two minutes before 11 o’clock in the evening “a thunderous explosion tore through the second floor of the U.S. Capitol’s Senate wing.” According to Politico, the area was virtually deserted and there were no casualties.

Minutes before the bomb went off, the Capitol switchboard got a call from someone who claimed to be the “Armed Resistance Unit”. The person said a bomb had been placed near the chamber. The person said this was done in retaliation for the recent U.S.military actions in Grenada and Lebanon.

The explosion caused a lot of physical destruction and structural damage. Officials at the time said the damage cost $250,000.

In 1988, the FBI arrested the seven members of the “Resistance Conspiracy”: Marilyn Jean Buck, Linda Sue Evans (sentenced to 5 years concurrently with 35 years for having illegally bought guns), Susan Rosenberg, Timothy Blunk, Alan Berkman, Laura Whitehorn (sentenced to 20 years) and Elizabeth Ann Duke. They were charged with the Capitol bombing and also for triggering similar blasts in other locations. U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene dropped the charges against three co-defendants because they were already serving extended prison sentences for related terrorist crimes.

Politico reported that this bombing marked the the start of tighter security measures throughout the Capitol complex. The area immediately beside the Senate chamber, previously open to the public, was closed. Officials also adopted color-coded staff and press identification cards that were required to be displayed at all times, and added metal detectors to building entrances to supplement those placed at chamber gallery doors following a 1971 bombing of the Capitol.

How is the January 6th attack on the Capitol different?

The attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020, was preceded by a “Save America Rally”. ABC News reported the following:

Trump’s “Save America Rally” included the president telling supporters to “stop the steal” of the election, urging them to head to the Capitol to demonstrate against Congress certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Among the crowd’s battle cries was, “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!”

ABC News

ABC News also reported that Trump spoke at the event for nearly an hour at the Ellipse, a park near the White House. After he spoke, thousands of attendees, many of them without masks, marched toward Capitol Hill as federal law enforcement raced to beat them there.

In short, the main difference between the previous attacks on the U.S. Capitol, and the one that occurred on January 6, 2020, is that the (then) President of the United States of America was leading it. For those who are interested, you can read the ABC News article for a transcript of the words that (then) President Trump spoke to the crowd before the crowd started walking toward the U.S. Capitol.

What is the purpose of the Select Committee?

The Select Committee has three purposes:

(1) To investigate and report upon the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to January 6, 2020, domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Complex, and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in the National Capitol Region and other instrumentalists of government, as well as influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process.

(2) To examine and evaluate evidence developed by relevant Federal, State, and local governmental agencies regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol and targeted violence and domestic terrorism relevant to such terrorist attack.

(3) To build upon the investigations of other entities and avoid unnecessary duplication of the efforts by reviewing the investigations, findings, conclusions, and recommendations of other executive branch, congressional, or independent bipartisan or nonpartisan commission investigations into the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol, including investigations into influencing factors related to such attack.

More information about the Select Committee can be found on their U.S. House of Representatives website. It is where the Committee posts new information about their investigation.

The January 6th Committee is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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