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January 7, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 9:55am

ITV journalist’s report from inside US Capitol: ‘A crowd of furious men in camouflage wielding heavy wooden sticks encircled us’

By Sophie Alexander

ITV News producer Sophie Alexander was at the scene on a bad day for US democracy when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

We were primed for unrest but were not expecting it on a scale like this.

For months now we have reported on rising tensions in America. Following President Trump denouncing Joe Biden’s landslide victory as a “fraud”, we knew it was only a matter of time before his supporters grew violent.

Yet no-one could have expected the scenes we witnessed: a braying mob decked in Trump garb scaling walls, trampling fences, climbing the inauguration stage and, with screams of fury, hijacking the nation’s Capitol.

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Police in close proximity fired teargas into the crowd but it made no difference – they were outnumbered and underprepared. I counted about 15 officers trying to prevent a crowd of hundreds from entering the House. I also saw a protestor with a fire extinguisher shooting what appeared to be pepper spray into the faces of the officers.

US correspondent Robert Moore, camera operator Mark Davey and I were the first TV crew to follow rioters into the Senate, watching in disbelief and horror as they smashed windows and crawled into the building.

Chants of “our house” and “stop the steal” rang through the historic chambers as more and more rioters flooded through open doors, police incapable of stopping them.

“They work for us,” one man in a MAGA hat told us. “They don’t get to steal it from us.” Another adding: “We paid for this House. This is our country and our House and they will not steal it from us.”

News crews in America are no stranger to aggression from extremist right wingers and we regularly hear chants of “fake news” while going about our reporting. After conducting a couple of voxes, a crowd of furious men in camouflage wielding heavy wooden sticks encircled us, demanding to know which outlet we were from.

Once we told them we were in fact from British TV, interest waned. We followed the group down a corridor where chants of “Pelosi, Pelosi, Pelosi” could be heard. The mob having found the office of the Speaker of the House and in a gleeful moment ripped her plaque from above the door, posing with it shattered into pieces.

Among the screaming and hollering, we heard a man on the phone to his loved one saying: “If I don’t make it out of here I love you. Tell the boys to fight for what is right.” There was no doubt that on this day, those who hijacked the Capitol were prepared to fight to the bitter end for what they believed in.

As we entered the rotunda tempers calmed and turned to jubilation. The rioters posed for selfies and smoked cigarettes, enjoying an unconventional and unlawful party. About ten officers just watched from the edge of the room, aware their total lack of man-power rendered them useless.

After about 30 minutes of this sheer bravado, the National Guard (having been deployed by Vice President Pence, not Trump) finally formed ranks and the scene turned violent again. People were pepper sprayed in the face and hit with batons in a large-scale effort to clear the building.

After getting pushed to the ground and out of the room by the National Guard we decided to call it and managed to get out into the fresh air. As we left, rioters were still making their way into the building. They took control for a full three hours. It was the first time anyone has stormed the Capitol since 1814.

Picture: Sophie Alexander/ITV News

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