ELECTION 2020

I just went to the U.S. Capitol, a day after the insanity

It was quiet Thursday. That was good.

The U.S. Capitol and the Capitol Reflecting Pool, Thursday morning (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)
The U.S. Capitol and the Capitol Reflecting Pool, Thursday morning (Mike Hlas/The Gazette)
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WASHINGTON — Things were quiet outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday morning.

If you hadn’t known the day before had been violent, destructive and filled with illegal actions here, you wouldn’t guessed anything of the sort had happened Wednesday.

Yes, there were plenty of Capitol and Washington police. There were members of what I assumed were the National Guard — I didn’t get close enough to tell. Where they all were 24 hours earlier, I wasn’t going to ask.

But the U.S. flag was still flying from the Capitol and people who belonged there were getting in and out with no apparent problem. No residual danger felt present from Wednesday afternoon’s mob acts of insurrection.

That’s just my take. I started typing this at 1:30 p.m., Eastern time, and we live moment by moment.

On the sidewalk across the street from the west side of the Capitol near the Capitol Reflecting Pool, no more than a couple hundred people were spread out in small groups.

There were several television crews, from local to national to foreign, looking for people to interview. There was an array of people who happily submitted to questioning, most of them fervent supporters of President Donald Trump.

I didn’t go there in a reporter’s role, didn’t interview or record people for posterity. I went because I’m a Curious George, and I was staying in College Park, Md., an easy half-hour train ride away. I’m here to cover tonight’s Iowa-Maryland men’s basketball game.

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After what happened here Wednesday, I felt compelled to take a train to L’Enfant Plaza station in Washington and walk down the National Mall to get as close to the Capitol as I could.

I expected the Mall to be strewn with litter from the violent scene of Wednesday, but it wasn’t. Joggers, pedestrians, and their doggies didn’t have to dodge garbage. The government still works in some ways.

Anyway, about those interview subjects. There were still some Trump-supporters wearing their red caps and waving their blue flags here. I saw many others leaving hotels not far from the Mall, chatting up each other on street corners and in a Starbucks, and getting rides to airports. I talked to someone from Wisconsin and someone from Texas who came here just to join the pro-Trump rally that ended so, yes, deplorably.

They said they were glad they came. They seemed happy. Lots of smiles. Lots of recounting the day before, seemingly with fondness. Little mask-wearing.

Judging them on appearance and demeanor, many seemed like they could just as easily have been here to do business or attend a conference. Some others seemed a bit off the rails, detached from reality, and spewing conspiracy theories that they stated as gospel.

I was leery of engaging anybody, but did end up talking to a few people without exchanging names or valuable personal information. The general comments went like this:

“It was just 1 percent of the people who went into the Capitol. Oh no, we didn’t.”

“There’s no question this election was stolen.”

“A lot of those people in the Capitol were Antifa.”

The devil in me made me to say this to a group of five unmasked people wearing Trump garb who insisted Antifa led the insurrection:

“Those Antifa people must be clever.”

“Yes, they are,” or a version of that was the immediate reply of four of them.

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Sports writing isn’t considered a noble calling by many, and I get that. But at least the people I meet on the job are typically rational and bright. I hope I’ve never taken that for granted. I know I didn’t today.

Comments: (319) 398-8440; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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