Exactly one year ago, they flocked to Washington in their thousands on January 6, 2021 to protest a presidential election they still believe to be rigged. The Capitol has been taken by storm, the country bruised.
A year later, and while President Joe Biden spoke Thursday in a speech of an “armed insurgency”, three demonstrators present that day recount to AFP this day which shocked the world.
– “Euphoria” –
“It was an incredible day,” recalls Samson Racioppi, 40, inserted in the Republican Party. On January 6, this man took charge of chartering a series of buses from his state of Massachusetts to the capital, Washington.
A sea of people gathered there in freezing cold, waving “Trump 2020” flags to denounce the result of the presidential election which saw the Republican billionaire lose. The president presents himself on a platform. The crowd is galvanized.
“I remember this feeling of euphoria, seeing all around us these people who finally had something to do”, tells AFP Jim Wood, come straight from the State of New Hampshire.
Before Donald Trump finishes speaking, this 60-year-old makes his way and follows a procession on the way to the American Congress where, to their chagrin, elected officials are certifying the victory of Joe Biden.
Thousands of demonstrators imitate him. In a few moments, a crowd gathered in front of the white dome of the Capitol.
– “The anarchy” –
“And then suddenly, we hear cries, + we go there, we go +”, exclaims Glen Montfalcone, from Massachusetts. “This is where the anarchy began.”
“People were pushing, pushing, pushing and shouting ‘Come on!’, He says. ‘And so that’s what we did, we went for it.
Have they returned to the Capitol? All three swear no. But to say the opposite is also to risk prison.
A shirtless man with bison horns wandering around the Capitol, a protester killed by police … With amazement, the whole world follows live the invasion of the US Congress.
These images, Jim Wood said to discover them the next day, at breakfast. “Demonization!”, He lambasted, assuring that the vast majority of the demonstrators remained outside the building.
During the following months, two accounts of this day of January 6 clash.
The police officers on duty that day, elected Democrats and even some Republicans qualify these acts as “terrorists”.
– The FBI at the door –
Police operations are launched across the country. Glen Montfalcone sees several FBI agents arrive at his door, his friends are arrested.
In his law school, friends of Samson Racioppi are mobilizing for him to be fired. Without success.
In Washington, a parliamentary committee is set up to investigate the possibility that the Trump camp’s maneuvers may have constituted an attempted coup.
A coup? The Capitol demonstrators are protesting against this expression. On the contrary, they keep the memory of an exhilarating day, which gives goose bumps, “something that I will tell my grandchildren”, promises Samson Racioppi.
Still convinced, like the majority of Republican voters that the 2020 election was stolen – despite countless evidence to the contrary – he says he is ready to defend the next polls at all costs.
“We see it as a war,” says the law student. “We are going to launch a series of battles and do as much damage as possible to the left and to those who support the tyranny.”
Until returning to the Capitol? “Of course.”