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'What Happened Yesterday Is Textbook Terrorism,' D.C. Mayor Says

A mob of pro-Trump extremists clash with police as they try to enter the U.S. Capitol, hoping to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser calls the violent takeover of the Capitol building a case of "domestic terrorism."
Lev Radin
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Ge
A mob of pro-Trump extremists clash with police as they try to enter the U.S. Capitol, hoping to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser calls the violent takeover of the Capitol building a case of "domestic terrorism."

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser is calling Wednesday's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol a clear case of domestic terrorism, saying the extremists who stormed the building used illegal force to further their political agenda.

Bowser said she blames the assault on President Trump, calling him an "unhinged president" who has peddled baseless conspiracies.

The mayor made her forceful remarks Thursday morning during an update on the massive security breach at the legislature. At least four people died during the unrest, including a woman who was shot by Capitol Police. Scores of police officers were wounded in the violence. Thousands of people were involved in the attack; more than 80 people were arrested.

"What happened yesterday is textbook terrorism," Bowser said. She then read a definition of that crime aloud, citing the U.S. code of federal regulations.

"It is defined as 'the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives,' " Bowser said.

The mayor repeatedly referred to the violent takeover of the Capitol building as a case of "domestic terrorism." And she noted that the FBI has already set up a website for Americans to report tips related to the crime. She added that D.C.'s Metropolitan Police is also collecting tips, with the goal of prosecuting those responsible.

But Bowser said Trump must bear part of the blame because he urged his supporters to descend on Congress as lawmakers prepared to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

"The current president must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy," Bowser said. "What happened yesterday is what he wanted to happen."

Wednesday night, Bowser extended a state of public emergency for the District for the remainder of Trump's term in office and until one day after Biden's inauguration. The mayor cited the president's refusal to accept his loss to Biden, his continued fanning of outrage and the anger of his supporters – some of whom, she said, "can be expected to continue their violent protests through the inauguration."

Discussing Trump on Thursday, Bowser stated, "We must not underestimate the damage he can do to our nation and our democracy over the next two weeks."

As for the attack on the seat of one of America's three branches of government, the D.C. mayor urged Congress to establish a nonpartisan commission to review "why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the [Black Lives Matter] protests over the summer than during yesterday's attack on Congress."

The protests for racial justice over the summer brought a number of intense confrontations between police and demonstrators, from the use of tear gas and physical force to stun grenades and helicopters.

"What we see here is that certain bodies are accorded a certain kind of treatment and other bodies are not," Eddie Glaude, chair of Princeton University's Department of African American studies, told NPR's Morning Edition on Thursday.

Bowser said the congressional commission must also review what she called "catastrophic security failures that happened at the Capitol" to ensure that a similar incident doesn't happen again.

Bowser elaborated on that idea later, when she was asked about the breakdown of the Capitol Police's security effort.

"Obviously it was a failure, or you would not have had police lines breached and people enter the Capitol building by breaking windows," she said, "and terrorizing the people, the members of Congress who were doing a very sacred constitutional requirement of their jobs. So clearly, there was failure there."

Bowser said the incident is another example of why Washington, D.C., must gain statehood, calling on Congress to approve a bill to that effect within the first 100 days of its new session.

"Congress must immediately transfer command of the District of Columbia National Guard from the president of the United States and put it squarely under the command and control of the mayor of the District of Columbia," she said.

The effort to bolster security at the Capitol ramped up early Thursday. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said, "At 9 a.m. this morning, we began erecting a 7-foot non-scalable fence" around the Capitol grounds.

By noon Thursday, McCarthy said, 850 members of the National Guard were set to be on the Capitol grounds. By this weekend, he added, a total of 6,200 Guard members will be in the national capital region to support security efforts.

The additional personnel, the fence and other security measures will remain in place for at least the next 30 days, McCarthy said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.