WASHINGTON – When supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, the Associated Press had nine photographers inside and outside the building.
As the chaotic day unfolded, they took hundreds of photos which were transmitted live within minutes, putting the world at the forefront of the shocking events.
The PA team of photographers captured the chaos from various vantage points, filming frame after frame of the interior of the growing crowd, of the upper floors of the Capitol watching the raging riot and the inside the Capitol itself as the glass shattered and guns were fired. in a breathtaking, surreal and terrifying historical moment.
Julio Cortez, a Baltimore-based AP photographer, was in Washington, DC, at Trump’s outdoor rally in the morning, then headed to the Capitol before the march, arriving just after 1 p.m. Here is his story:
As the day started, I had an idea of ââthe possibilities of danger from all the chatter I had seen. The night before at Freedom Plaza, I photographed a rally of Trump supporters vocally expressing their willingness to use violence in their efforts to prevent election results from being officially counted by Congress.
These sentiments echoed early in the morning as people began to arrive in Washington for what quickly became a massive rally. A man walked around with a blower saying that after the rally near the Washington Monument, they should go to Capitol Hill and stop the electoral vote count that would give Joe Biden the presidency.
I didn’t wait until the end of the rally and decided to go with my teammate John Minchillo to the Capitol to get ahead of the crowd.
By the time we got to the Capitol, we were right behind the first group of people scuffling with the cops at the barricades surrounding the building. We equipped ourselves with our gas masks and helmets and headed for chaos. We fought to position ourselves in the front near the demonstrators.
As I was rushing up the stairs, I stopped to take a photo of protesters playing tug of war with a barricade against the authorities. I framed my current image with the Capitol in the background. As I hit the shutter button I thought about how surreal this scene was and how I really couldn’t believe it was happening. Framing the building as a backdrop allowed me to show the world exactly how that moment was.
I heard a man try to tell the crowd to form a plan to enter the building. In addition to the many swear words the protesters shouted against the authorities, the officials were called traitors. A man was heard shouting, “Wait till we come back with our big guns!” “
The sights and sounds really hit me, and at that point I thought, âThis is it! The civil war is starting now.
For about 45 minutes, I photographed protesters and authorities scuffling back and forth. A protester put his hands on my camera lens and threatened to look in his direction. Another man, wearing mittens, dared the cops to a fight. A man wearing a blue Make America Great Again beanie received a rubber bullet that stabbed his left cheek. With the lozenge still in the hole, he chewed on a gauze pad, while a passer-by told him to stay calm as he was in shock.
During this time, I tried to stay calm myself. I’ve always kept an eye on Minchillo. And unfortunately, at a time when the authorities seemed to have pushed back the crowd, the protesters turned on Minchillo and aggressively dragged him down a few steps, punched him, shoved him, threatened him with death and finally threw over a small retaining wall. At that point, I went into protection mode and found a way to intervene without making matters worse. Fortunately, we were able to withdraw from the scene for safety reasons.
But by the time we tried to come back to the front of the crowd, it was too late. Hundreds of people tried to enter the small doors of the building. We tried to make our way to the front, but we were quickly threatened by demonstrators. At another door, an officer stood in the threshold, shaking hands with protesters as they entered.
We really tried to get into the building, but I kept remembering that we had a really good team of photographers covering this event and that we had several photographers inside the building to provide footage of what was going on there.
Eventually the National Guard arrived and took control of the situation, which gave me some peace because I wasn’t sure what would happen after dark.
The day shook me in many ways. Two weeks later, I was to return to cover President Biden’s inauguration. I was afraid the man who shouted that he would come back with his big guns would follow through on his threat. It took me over two hours to say goodbye to my wife and kids before heading to Washington to prepare the cover for the inauguration. I cried. I thought I would never go home.