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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman May 18, 2021

Clip of Capitol police speaking with rioters doesn’t prove mob was given OK to enter building

If Your Time is short

  • A video clip from inside of the Capitol on Jan. 6 shows officers speaking to one group of rioters who are already in the building. It is not evidence that the mob was given the OK to enter the Capitol.

  • Capitol Police told PolitiFact the officers in the video are blocking the hallway and attempting to de-escalate the situation. The officers told the crowd to not attack or assault them and to remain calm. 

  • The pro-Trump mob forcibly breached the building by pushing past barricades and law enforcement. Some rioters attacked police officers and vandalized the Capitol.

A viral video of U.S. Capitol Police officers speaking with a group of rioters inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 is fueling a counter-narrative of what actually happened that day. 

Bloggers and social media users are describing the 44-second clip as evidence that pro-Trump rioters were given permission to enter the U.S. Capitol that day, and that the violence depicted in several other photos and videos is the work of Democrats. 

The video shows a man named William Watson telling the rest of the group that the police are willing to work with them peacefully. It then pivots to an officer telling them, "show us no attacking, no assault. Remain calm." Toward the end, the man who wore a fur headdress, known as the "Q Shaman," yells for everyone to be peaceful and says "we have the right to peacefully assemble." 

"Video shows U.S. Capitol Police gave protesters OK to enter," reads the video’s caption on Facebook.

Additional text in its description says: "The video directly contradicts what government prosecutors allege in complaints against citizens shown in the video."

This is wrong. The video does not show officers allowing rioters into the building. The officers are blocking the hallway and attempting to de-escalate the situation, a spokesperson for the Capitol Police told PolitiFact. 

More than 400 people have been charged in federal court related to the riot, and the charges include obstruction of law enforcement, violence with a deadly weapon and assault. Five people died, many more were injured, and repairing the damage to the building is estimated to cost millions.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

This clip briefly shows one group of rioters who were already inside the building. Police officers were vastly outnumbered during the breach.

"There is no evidence of misconduct (by police) in the short video clip," a Capitol Police spokesperson told PolitiFact.

"The officers are blocking the hallway and attempting to de-escalate the situation, as they are trained to, by telling the crowd to not attack or assault and to remain calm. The Department is working closely with its federal law enforcement officers to ensure the criminals who unlawfully broke into the U.S. Capitol during the Joint Session of Congress are successfully prosecuted." 

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The full picture of the day shows that the mob climbed walls, pushed through barricades, smashed windows and broke doors to get into the Capitol. They vandalized the building, ransacked offices and stole government property. Some assaulted officers. And they ultimately caused the House and Senate to shut down for several hours on the day they were certifying the presidential election. 

Here are a few examples of what happened that day, as described in charging documents filed by prosecutors: 

  • Video shows that rioters used makeshift weapons including hockey sticks, flagpoles and a police shield stolen from an officer. Many were charged with offenses related to deadly or dangerous weapons, and a few were charged with offenses related to firearm possession

  • One rioter screamed at an officer to shoot him, and multiple officers had to fight and subdue him. 

  • Another is seen using a stick-like weapon outside the building, making stabbing movements at officers’ necks between their helmets and body armor where they weren’t protected.

  • One person used a metal flagpole to attack a police officer, while another sprayed officers with a chemical irritant.

The claim that the video contradicts prosecutors' statements appears to be a reference to the federal case against Jacob Anthony Chansley, the shirtless "Q Shaman." Chansley faces charges that include civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. But in this viral clip, we see only a snippet of Chansley’s interactions with police that day. Other videos show him climbing scaffolding, screaming into a bullhorn and running onto the dais of the Senate chamber.

In Chansley’s detention memo, prosecutors say that the officer seen in the video, Keith Robishaw, "calmed the protestors somewhat and directed them to leave the area from the same way they had entered." 

It adds: "Most complied, but Chansley disobeyed the order and instead began heading up a different stairwell toward the Senate floor. Officer Robishaw, alone with more than 25 rioters in the Senate Chamber, attempted to engage with Chansley and asked for his assistance to use the bullhorn to get the protestors out of the Chamber. Instead of doing so, Chansley ran up on the dais where Vice President Pence had been presiding just minutes before, and begin posing on the dais for other rioters to document and photograph, and wrote a note to Vice President Pence saying, ‘It's only a matter of time, justice is coming.’"

Chansley was ordered to stay in jail because, among other reasons, he committed a felony that involved the use of a dangerous weapon (a spear), and prosecutors noted there were "serious risks that he will flee and obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice." 

Our ruling

Social media posts are describing a video clip of Capitol police officers with a group of pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6 as evidence that officers allowed the mob inside the building.

The officers in the video are attempting to de-escalate the situation by telling the rioters, who already breached the building, to remain calm and peaceful. There is overwhelming evidence that shows the mob forcefully entering the Capitol, with many attacking police officers in the process. 

We rate this Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Facebook video, May 16, 2021

PolitiFact, The ridiculous claim that those at the Capitol Jan. 6 resembled a 'normal tourist visit', May 13, 2021 

U.S. Department of Justice, Capitol Breach Cases, Accessed May 18, 2021 

PolitiFact, Face-painted man in horned fur cap at Capitol riot supports Trump and QAnon, not antifa, Jan. 7, 2021 

PolitiFact, No, the Capitol insurrection was not staged by antifa, Jan 8, 2021

NPR, Antifa Didn't Storm The Capitol. Just Ask The Rioters., March 2, 2021 

Washington Post, Judge orders release of videos that challenge claims made by ‘QAnon Shaman’, March 16, 2021 

Email interview, U.S. Capitol Police, May 18, 2021

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Clip of Capitol police speaking with rioters doesn’t prove mob was given OK to enter building

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