Free Sample Chapter
Prologue: Chasing History
“WE TOOK THE CAPITOL!!!!!!!”
The white, marble walls are engulfed in a biblical swarm of cosplay-tourists wearing Trump-flags like superhero capes. The doors are thrown open, spitting noxious, yellow smoke which no one seems to register as dangerous. Despite bullet-proof vests, Mace worn like sidearms, and the occasional pitchfork, no one seems to register any of this as dangerous. The shouting man sounds less like a conquering barbarian and more like a high school football player, on the rare occasion he won. I even hear scattered applause for his shouts as young men in protective armor and helmets bump shoulders while senior citizens clutch home-made signs. In his mind, is this like a match against a rival team? Well there is a spectacular crowd. The so-called “Sea of People” swells beneath us; endless waves of human beings, all crashing on this spot. They stretch back as far as the eye can see; I don’t know how many people are here, but it’s the largest crowd I’ve ever seen.
“WE DID IT!!!!”
Did what? Did you win a trophy for this? He’s about my age, but twice my size; I’d bet anything he was a linebacker once. But this isn’t a game, and he’s just one of a million bizarre spectacles overloading my brain. How long have I been in this dream-like alternate dimension? Minutes? Hours? Which of the things I’ve seen are the important parts? There was a flare gun fired into the air; should I investigate that? Or should I focus on the full-grown man dressed as a fuzzy pink unicorn, screaming bloody murder? Over there’s perhaps the happiest man I’ve ever seen, just sweeping a broom back and forth; turns out he stole it from a congressional broom closet . . . that’s what he became a felon for . . . a broom. Or maybe I should focus on the smiling fat man, dressed like a Roman Emperor, who only wants to talk about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These farcical cartoon characters have somehow taken ownership of the Capitol Dome. My government has been overthrown by an episode of Monty Python.
As I snap a picture of this surreal dreamscape, I spot a line of police cars emerging. They take up an entire street, flashing red and blue lights stretching out into the horizon. They’re so close together, they look like one unit. A monstrous robotic snake crawling towards the climactic fight in a Godzilla movie.
All of them are coming here, straight towards us; yet no one seems concerned. As I gaze back at the fat Roman Emperor chatting happily with his subjects at the balcony’s edge, I’m reminded of the legend of the Emperor Nero; they say he sang songs and played music while Rome was burning. He never grasped the situation around him.
A few windows are broken, although so far, the majority have been left alone. There’s some graffiti on the outside of the building, although not a lot. I take pictures of that too.
“Remember!” someone shouts into a megaphone, “This is a PEACEFUL protest!”
Is it though?
The Linebacker guy is still raving orgasmically about how we TOOK the Capitol. Apparently, he’s been inside the building and come back out. What he’s done feels so amazing that he can’t hold it inside himself; he has to scream about it, just to release the pressure.
My audio recorder is in hand; I’ve already interviewed several witnesses. The Linebacker, I decide, is next. He agrees instantly and I start recording him mid-rant, practically mid-sentence.
NOTE: All transcripts are taken from recordings of interviews conducted on the spot. They’re minimally edited, to maintain accuracy. I’ve even left obvious grammatical mistakes in place, so you can know exactly what they said. Sections I consider significant are underlined.
Linebacker: (hoarse from shouting) . . . we can’t . . . HOW WRONG IS THAT?
Random Guy: A Congressman pulled a gun!
me: Did you see that?
Linebacker: I don’t know who, but that’s what I was told. Well, I have a picture of us sitting in the goddamn Nancy Pelosi seat, though!
me: Can I see it?
Linebacker: YES!!!!!! It’s on fucking Twitter, I have a video of me in, literally in there!
me: No shit!
Linebacker: Yes!!!!!! WE TOOK THE CAPITOL!!!!! (voice cracking) We took it once; we can take it twice!!!!
me: Where can I get a copy of that?
Linebacker: Yeah, it’s on Twitter. I mean . . . me: OK, so what are you on Twitter?
Linebacker: That’s not my Twitter. My buddy’s Twitter. I don’t have Twitter. Fuck it. me: So, I’m trying to write a book, to document this moment in history. Can you tell me the story of you . . . you sitting in Nancy Pelosi’s seat?
Linebacker: That wasn’t me, it’s just a picture. 10 me: But did you see it?
Linebacker: No, that’s just a picture I was sent.
Linebacker: (points at the building) I helped break into one, one of these doors. me: OK.
Linebacker: Got video of that. me: Yeah, tell me about that.
Linebacker: So, all we did, we . . . they were rounding us from the door at the front. So, we went out the side here. (crowd howls in background) We broke through the glass. We started opening the doors. The cops came in, as soon as we opened, and started pushing us back. But all of us fucking patriots pushed them back! They were scared, every single one of them. We pushed them back halfway down that hallway towards the stairs. To where they literally had to split. And the moment that they brought out the gas and started spraying and started taking people, I literally grabbed two of them and took a fucking spray to my face and pulled them son-a-bitches back. I mean we had to leave. What were we going to do, you know?
me: . . . sure . . .
Linebacker: But, boy, I tell you what, if we didn’t keep on pushing in the hole! We broke in over there! (points at other parts of the building) We broke in right here! We broke in that door! We broke in the door over there! If they want it, we will turn this place to Swiss cheese!
NOTE: He is describing how the crowd used a flanking maneuver on the police to get into the building, i.e., they forced the police to concentrate in one area, then quickly moved their assault to a different, less defended area. I have heard this described from multiple perspectives, and I believe it’s an important detail because it shows the crowd was unusually organized and it was focused specifically on getting inside the building. That’s not what one might expect from a spontaneous riot of people wearing silly costumes.
Linebacker: We will continue to go . . .
me: How far in . . . did you get inside the building itself?
Linebacker: Yeah, I was all over in the goddamn . . . the atrium there!
me: Can you tell me about that? Where did you go? What did you see?
Linebacker: Went in here to the right, in the atrium, where the goddamn chandelier, literally to the left would be in the goddamn chambers! I went over to the right side of the goddamn chair in the meeting room. I got video on that, too. This is fucking our house!
me: Wow, you personally sat in the meeting room that the members of Congress used?
Linebacker: Not the . . . not the atriums themselves. Not the . . . the actual place that they sit to vote.
me: No, not the chamber but . . .
Linebacker: Small meeting rooms . . .
me: . . . used by members of Congress.
Linebacker: Yes! Yes! I mean, I was inside! They just booted us out with riot gear and gas. So now, the curfew’s at six o’clock.
Linebacker: We can’t leave. We literally cannot leave. The moment we leave, them rats are going to come back out of their halls and do exactly what we don’t want them to do. This is our fucking moment. This day, on January 6, 2021, at 2:10 p.m., will be remembered in history as the day we had the second American Revolution. And that phrase . . . for a fact! I will stand here, and I will paint the walls of that Congress with my blood if I have to! I’m so fucking pissed. It’s not even funny. Fucking done!
me: Did anything else happen while you were inside that was interesting?
Linebacker: The cops were mostly friendly. I mean, they were until they started putting gas masks on and running us out again. They surrounded us inside and they started, you know, like cattle just pushing us out.
NOTE: I remember finding it very odd that someone who shoved cops down a hallway and wanted to bathe the Capitol in his blood, also felt the cops had been friendly to him. But many of the people who stormed the Capitol repeated his claim, saying police were friendly and even supportive for at least part of the time. Afterward, many MAGA people I spoke to pointed to this strange attitude as proof that it was all a set-up, that somehow the police had tricked them into doing it. The police were tight-lipped about their behavior after The Event, promising only to review the matter (see Source 1 at bottom of page), although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced the police chief to resign (see Source 2 at bottom of page) and at least 15 officers were investigated for appearing to side with the mob (see Source 3 at bottom of page.) Many in the media claimed the police must’ve simply realized they’d been overrun and there was no point in fighting until they regrouped, (See Source 4 at bottom of page) and maybe that’s true, but that doesn’t explain the cops who took selfies and gave the mob directions (see Source 5 at bottom of page). At any rate, the bizarrely lackadaisical attitude was noticeable to me, even at the time.
The Linebacker went on ranting, talking about how the American people needed to know how he was fighting for their freedom. He made me promise not to twist his words when I used them, and I will do my best. But we’ll come back to him later.
. . . so, I guess now I owe you some answers. Why would anyone be wandering around a besieged Capitol Balcony with an audio recorder, gathering material under a haze of tear gas? Well, I think of this as a time capsule. In these pages are historical artifacts that I collected for you, the people reading this book in the future; while I’m stuck writing it here, in your past. I think about you a lot, future generations. I want you to understand what it felt like to live through the bizarre events of my era.
The happiest time of my life was when I was a high school history teacher (either that or when I was hitchhiking across Europe, with the equivalent of $28,000 in Saudi Arabian cash, whilst also romancing three lovers in a polyamorous relationship . . . but let’s not get into that right now). The point is, the history teacher in me wanted to pass on a lesson to you, about my troubled times. So, I traveled all around my country, trying to place myself in situations that seemed historically relevant, to create a record of my era. I called this project “Chasing History,” and it’s the reason I ended up conducting interviews with the Junior Varsity Trespassing Team while the Capitol was still being stormed behind me.
Everything in here is real. Everything I wrote about in the Chasing History Project was witnessed first-hand and every picture I took myself, unless otherwise noted. Every transcript features the exact words I recorded, and although some of the longer interviews had to be cut for time, editing was minimal and all interviews can be read in full on my website: www.ChasingHistoryProject.com
I often get asked, “Ben, why write a book talking to futures generations; why not talk to your own people?” Well, maybe it’s because I’m a jaded history teacher who’s finally snapped and thinks his own civilization is collapsing, like the ones he used to teach about. Maybe it’s just a satirical framing device I use to pretend to talk to the future while winking at the present. Or maybe my own generation just kinda . . . sucks. Maybe the last several generations in a row have lacked most basic cognitive and emotional skills.
NOTE: “Discussion” with people in my time period is oddly unsettling because instead of listening, they scan conversations for a few keywords and regurgitate three or four bits of text they memorized from Twitter; they struggle to tell if this text is related or not. My contemporaries think “debate” means reciting scripts louder or meaner than their opponents; they never try to understand the other side, they just cut and paste on top of each other.
These people aren’t controlled by algorithms, they are algorithms!
Whatever the reason, I don’t want to talk to current generations, I’d rather talk past them. The only hope I see is if future generations avoid the mistakes we made. If someday, some high school kid says my project made them think a little bit about the chaotic embarrassment known as the early 2020s, and how to stop their civilization from getting as pathetic as ours, well, that’s what “winning” looks like to me.
Which brings us to the book you hold in your hands. The detailed history of one day in my life: January 6th, 2021. The day that President Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol. Within hours of what I call “The Event,” a hundred narratives and counter-narratives sprang up about the people who stormed the Capitol. “It was the BLM people, disguised as MAGA!” “It was Trump! He ordered the break-in, to set himself up as a dictator!” “It was an insurrection by the militia groups!” “It was the police! The Capitol police let the protesters in and there’s a video to prove it!”
So, what really happened? Well, you’re in luck future generations, ‘cause I was there. I climbed down the Capitol walls to escape tear gas, I scrambled frantically to observe as much of The Event as one person could, and what I didn’t see for myself, I interviewed other witnesses about. I recorded every possible detail, for you, so you could analyze it later.
Remember the Linebacker? In less than seven minutes he confessed to breaking into federal property four different times. He actually pointed at specific doors as he told me he’d smashed them open. He confessed to a running battle inside the building where he pushed police down a hallway, while getting tear gassed. And he even referred to what he was doing as “the 2nd American Revolution,” and vowed to “paint the hallways with my blood.” Which . . . it turns out that fomenting insurrection and/or rebellion is specifically named into its own category of next-level punishments by Title 18, Section 2383 of the US criminal code (see Source 6 at bottom of page.) This guy committed a bunch of very serious crimes and for all I know he’s in prison now; but I never knew his name, nor any contact info. I couldn’t find him again if I wanted to. I promised everyone in the Chasing History Project that nothing bad would happen to them because they spoke to me. I didn’t ask for their names. My only concern was finding out what really happened and getting it into the historical record. Today, I bet that guy wouldn’t talk so openly about what he did. I bet if you asked him, his lawyer would’ve coached him to regurgitate some short, evasive script. But I got him to tell you both what he did and why he did it; and he told it all right after he’d done it, before he’d had time to even fully process it. I got him to tell you the real truth about storming the US Capitol, at least as far as he knew. That’s my gift to you, future generations; that’s what I shoved into this time capsule.
This time period I live in is hyper-partisan, so I’m sure both sides will accuse me of unfairly attacking them in this book. However, I tried to be, if not “fair” to my subjects, then at least “accurate.” It’s not my job to make anyone look good, but I never told any lies and I never omitted any key details to deliberately change how something was perceived. I just walked you through all the events that I witnessed, heard about, and thought about. That’s it. I tried to ask questions that I imagined that some skeptical history student would want to ask years later if given the chance. I’m not “neutral” and if I describe myself that way in interviews, I’m wrong.
If you’ve been wondering about my own politics: I didn’t vote for Trump or Biden. I worked for a couple of big-name internships for the Democrats, back when I was an idealistic college student; but that was almost 20 years ago. Today I’m just another cynical smart aleck with no party affiliation. I’ve got degrees in Political Science and Teaching that landed me a few gigs teaching high school history and government, as well as a stint trying to work as a full-time campaign manager. In short, I’m a frustrated citizen with an above-average understanding of the system, who disagrees with Republicans but is exhausted by the impotent hypocrisy of the Democrats, not to mention their startling lack of social skills. Besides which . . . both sides are controlled by corrupt bureaucrats who take bribes from billionaires. They report the money on their tax returns, it’s not even a secret! They just call them “speaking fees,” or “campaign contributions,” or “awarding government contracts to your brother’s company!” (gasps for air) . . . and now you know how I feel about politics.
So anyways, that should be everything you need to get started. You know who I am and why I did this, you know what we’re about to dive into. Now it falls to you, future generations, to learn from my era’s mistakes and use them to build a better future. So, let’s rewind back to the morning of January 6th, 2021, and run through the whole day, from start to finish.
C’mon. Let’s go storm the Capitol.
–Ben Hamilton 2/4/21
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Sources Referenced in Sample Chapter
1. Source for police saying very little beyond promising to review the events.
United States Capitol Police, “Statement of Steven Sund, Chief of Police, regarding the Events of January 6, 2021Sund,” News release, January 7, 2021, accessed April 30, 2021, https://www.uscp.gov/media-center/press-releases/statement-steven-sund-chief-police
2. Source for Capitol police chief saying Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, forced him to resign.
Kevin Johnson, “Ex-Capitol Police Chief: Pelosi’s Call for His Resignation Premature,” USA Today, February 23, 2021, accessed April 30, 2021, https://sports.yahoo.com/ex-capitol-police-chief-pelosi-180916405.html
3. Source for at least 15 officers investigated for appearing to side with the mob.
Matt Stieb, “Capitol Police Suspends Cops for Allegedly Siding With Pro-Trump Mob,” Intelligencer, January 11, 2021, accessed April 30, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/01/two-capitol-cops-suspended-for-actions-during-capitol-riot.html
4. Source for defenders of the police in the media saying they knew they were overrun and there was no point in fighting until they regrouped.
Samantha Putterman, “Fact Check: Did Capitol Police Let Mob of Trump Supporters In?” Politifact, January 8, 2021, accessed April 30, 2021, https://www.wral.com/fact-check-did-capitol-police-let-mob-of-trump-supporters-in/19463148/
5. Source for Capitol police who posed for selfies and gave directions to the mob.
Harriet Alexander, “One Capitol Cop Is ARRESTED , Two Are Suspended And 17 Are Under Investigation For Conduct During Invasion – Including One Who Took Selfies and Another Who Put on A MAGA Hat and Took Rioters Around Capitol,” Daily Mail, January 21, 2021, accessed May 4, 2021, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9136277/Cop-took-selfies-MAGA-hat-took-rioters-Capitol-suspended.html
6. Source for the US criminal code punishments for fomenting rebellion and insurrection.
Title 18, U.S.C, §2383, 1948, accessed April 30, 2021, https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title18/part1/chapter115&edition=prelim