Despite plenty of warnings of a possible insurrection and ample resources and time to prepare, the Capitol Police planned only for a free speech demonstration.
Still stinging from the uproar over the violent response by law enforcement to protests last June near the White House, officials also were intent on avoiding any appearance that the federal government was deploying active duty or National Guard troops against Americans.
The result is the U.S. Capitol was overrun Wednesday and officers in a law enforcement agency with a large operating budget and experience in high-security events protecting lawmakers were overwhelmed for the world to see. Four protesters died, including one shot inside the building. A Capitol Police officer died Thursday after being injured in the Wednesday melee.
The rioting and loss of control has raised serious questions over security at the Capitol for future events. The actions of the day also raise troubling concerns about the treatment of mainly white Trump supporters, who were allowed to roam through the building for hours, while Black and brown protesters who demonstrated last year over police brutality faced more robust and aggressive policing.
"This was a failure of imagination, a failure of leadership," said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, whose department responded to several large protests last year following the death of George Floyd. "The Capitol Police must do better and I don't see how we can get around that."