Invasion of the Capitol: Historical Context
Over the past 220 years, there have been many incidents at the Capitol, but not of this magnitude.
The Capitol has not seen such a thing for over 220 years: a raging crowd breaks into a building through a majestic colonnade, disrupts the transfer of power, desecrates the stronghold of the greatest democracy in the world.
But this is far from the first time that violence has taken place in the Capitol..
In 1814, just 14 years after the building was opened, British soldiers tried to burn it down during the war that began in 1812. The invaders first looted the building and then set fire to the south and north wings, destroying the Library of Congress. A sudden downpour prevented total destruction, but according to architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, only “magnificent ruins” remained of the building..
In later times, other events took place that refuted the motto carved on the rostrum of the House of Representatives: “Union, Justice, Tolerance, Freedom, Peace.” Explosions and shootings took place in the building. One legislator nearly killed another.
The most famous episode occurred in 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists unfurled the island’s flag and, shouting “Free Puerto Rico”, opened fire from a gallery in the House of Representatives. Five congressmen were injured, one of them seriously.
“I didn’t come to kill, I came to die for Puerto Rico!” – shouted the leader of the group Lolita LeBron, when she was detained.
There were other incidents as well. In 1915, a German planted three sticks of dynamite in the Senate reception room, arriving at an empty building at night.
A man who had previously poisoned his pregnant wife, subsequently shot and killed financier J.P. Morgan, Jr., planted an explosive device on an ammunition steamer bound for Britain, and then committed suicide before being arrested..
In 1971, the radical left Weather Underground planted a bomb in the building to protest American attacks on Laos, and in 1983, the Communist Movement bombed the Senate on May 19 in response to the invasion of Grenada. In both
no one was injured in the cases, but the damage from the explosions reached hundreds of thousands of dollars. After that, security measures were tightened in the building..
The bloodiest attack came in 1998, when a mentally ill man fired at a checkpoint and killed two Capitol police officers. One of the dying officers managed to wound the criminal, who was arrested and subsequently taken to a hospital. A nearby statue of Vice President John Calhoun still has a bullet trace..
In 2013, a dental hygienist tried to enter the White House with her one and a half year old daughter in her car. Police chased the intruder to the Capitol, where the woman was shot.
There were other high-profile attacks as well. In 1835, a deranged house painter attempted to fire two pistols at President Andrew Jackson near the building. The weapon misfired, and Jackson managed to neutralize the attacker.
In 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks attacked abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate Hall after his anti-slavery speech.
Brooks beat Sumner so badly with his cane that he was only able to return to work after three years. It was not possible to remove Brooks, but he resigned and was immediately re-elected..