American Decline

What do you do the day after you storm the Capitol?

By Kerry Hawley, New York Magazine

“They can’t arrest us all,’’ a future defendant had posted days before, and this was the vibe in the moment, the ecstatic invulnerability that leads someone to smear feces on the floor of the building in which the most powerful country on earth writes its rules. The worry set in later, when the swarm resolved into 9,000 separate bodies in separate homes in separate beds. At first it was just a feeling, watching the news, as the word rally gave way to the word riot, that the mood of the day had not carried onward into the present. The FBI was at the airport, someone heard. A friend had been arrested. One hundred arrests in the first two weeks. There were photographs on the FBI’s web page and online sleuths trawling for clues. There were tipsters calling in names of old classmates. When a man was arrested in Washington, the FBI had footage from a camera planted on a telephone pole near his front yard. Three hundred by March. Arrests would be made in nearly every state. There would be FBI raids, battering rams, guns-drawn SWAT teams terrifying small children in the night. Five hundred by August. If you were paying attention, you were waiting for them, and the thousands who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were people who took immense pride in paying attention.

I did storm the Capitol, a rioter named Robert Chapman messaged someone on Bumble. We are not a match, said the recipient, who then sent the message to the authorities. Rioters looked about and wondered who among their acquaintances had the motivated malice to dial 1-800-CALL-FBI. They were betrayed by co-workers, and they were betrayed by exes, and they were betrayed, very often, by former classmates. Someone who worked at Circle K pointed out that an assistant manager had requested time off to go to this. It was not unusual for six, seven, eight people to take it upon themselves to identify a single man. Thanks for your tips! tweeted the FBI.

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