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In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. (AP) In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. (AP)

In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 13, 2021

The ridiculous claim that those at the Capitol Jan. 6 resembled a 'normal tourist visit'

If Your Time is short

  • More than 400 people have been charged in federal court related to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. The charges include obstruction of law enforcement; violence with a deadly weapon; assault; disorderly conduct; and unlawful possession of firearms. 

  • Rioters breached the U.S. Capitol by forcibly pushing past barricades and law enforcement. Some rioters attacked police officers and vandalized the Capitol.

Some Republicans downplayed the violent acts that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, with one lawmaker comparing the breach to a "normal tourist visit."

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., said there was no insurrection and that the House floor was not breached. Clyde said there was an "undisciplined mob" and "some rioters and some who committed acts of vandalism, but let me be clear: There was no insurrection."

"Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. If you didn't know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit," Clyde said at a May 12 House hearing.

 

 

Clyde’s comparison of the breach of the Capitol to a "normal tourist visit" is a ridiculous assertion. 

The Capitol Visitor Center remains closed due to the pandemic, but here is what a normal visit looks like for tourists: They go on guide-led tours of historic areas. They buy souvenirs at the gift shop. They view temporary exhibits. They dine in the restaurant. And they do it all without bringing in weapons (or even water).

Here’s what rioters did on Jan. 6. They forced their way through barricades and past law enforcement to breach the building. They smashed windows and broke doors. They ransacked offices. They chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" They attacked police officers. They caused the House and Senate to shut down for several hours on the day they were certifying the presidential election. One put his feet up on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and left her a nasty note. None of these actions are things that tourists normally do at the Capitol.

Clyde’s spokesperson emailed us a video from NBC of people who were walking through Statuary Hall snapping photos or videos at about 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6, shortly after the Capitol was breached. The journalists speaking in the report note that these people had breached the Capitol and hadn’t gone through security. 

The fact that people weren't seen committing violence on camera during that particular moment doesn’t make it a tourist visit.

More than 400 people have been charged in the riot

A description in one of the charging documents states that at about 2 p.m., people forced their way through, up and over barricades and police officers to advance to the exterior facade of the building. They forced their way into the building by breaking windows and assaulting law enforcement.

The Justice Department has charged more than 400 people in connection with the riot, according to a database by the George Washington University Center on Extremism. Charges include obstruction of law enforcement; violence with a deadly weapon; assault; disorderly conduct; and unlawful possession of firearms. 

Featured Fact-check

Court documents outlining conspiracy charges show members of the Proud Boys, a far right group, posted messages on social media discussing plans to show up on Jan. 6 "incognito." 

Some members of the group were seen wearing earpieces and walkie-talkie style communication devices. Some people at the riot were associated with other extremist or white supremacist groups.

Some of the rioters grabbed a police officer, dragged him and struck him in the head and body with various objects, according to charging documents. Another rioter used a metal flagpole to attack a police officer.

Reports of the number of weapons confiscated are likely an undercount of the weapons people brought to the Capitol. But video shows the mob used makeshift weapons including hockey sticks, flagpoles and a police shield stolen from an officer. The Justice Department’s database of charges shows several defendants charged with offenses related to deadly or dangerous weapons, and a few were charged with offenses related to firearm possession.

"Normal Capitol visits don’t include individuals armed with zip ties, bear spray, and blunt objects," or violent clashes with police, said Michael Jensen, principal investigator at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. "Typical Capitol tourists don’t smash windows, loot offices, or deface Capitol property. Those types of things happen during insurrections, which is what Jan. 6 was."

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said the criminals who rioted were at the Capitol for purposes far from tourism.

"A tourist is someone who travels for pleasure seeking, cultural interchange or advancement of knowledge about different places and its inhabitants and does not have a political or criminal purpose," Levin said. "The people who rioted included insurrectionists and others who committed federal crimes for a political purpose to obstruct the legal operations of government. I hope people now don't just apply that logic to recast John Wilkes Booth as a theatergoer."  

Our ruling

Clyde said, "Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol … . If you didn't know the TV footage was from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit."

Clyde’s spokesperson pointed to a few moments of video of people walking through Statuary Hall snapping photos or videos. But those people were not engaged in anything that resembles tourism. They were part of a group who had violently breached the U.S. Capitol. Rioters that day assaulted police officers and vandalized the building, resulting in more than 400 people charged with crimes. This was no tourist visit, and there was nothing normal about it.

This is a ridiculous statement. Pants on Fire!

RELATED: Yes, Jan. 6 Capitol assault was an "armed insurrection"

RELATED: Tucker Carlson’s false claim downplaying role of white supremacists at Capitol riot

 

Our Sources

C-SPAN, Rep. Andrew Clyde, May 12, 2021

NBCUniversal, Protestors walk through Capitol Building, Statuary Hall outside of House chamber, Jan. 6, 2021

U.S. Department of Justice, Capitol Breach Cases, Accessed May 13, 2021

George Washington University Center on Extremism, Capitol Hill Siege, Accessed May 13, 2021

CNN, Fact check: Republicans continue to push false narratives about January 6, May 12, 2021

Factcheck.org, Capitol Protesters Were Armed With Variety of Weapons, March 10, 2021

Lawfare, The Justice Department Shouldn’t Open the Pandora’s Box of Seditious Conspiracy, May 6, 2021

AP, Takeaways: Partisan discord instead of Jan. 6 answers, May 13, 2021

NBC, Republican loyal to Trump claims Capitol riot looked more like 'normal tourist visit' May 12, 2021

Welcome to the U.S. Capitol, Accessed May 13, 2021

New York Times, Officers’ Injuries, Including Concussions, Show Scope of Violence at Capitol Riot, Updated May 7, 2021

Email interview, Nicholas Brown, U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde spokesperson, May 13, 2021

Email interview, Brian Levin,  director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, May 13, 2021

Email interview, Michael Jensen, principal investigator at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, May 13, 2021

 

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The ridiculous claim that those at the Capitol Jan. 6 resembled a 'normal tourist visit'

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