Assessing the Damage from Last Week’s Capitol Takeover

The Architect of the Capitol, the office that preserves and maintains the building’s art and architecture, has released an inventory of the damage sustained during Wednesday’s riot.

Photography by Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

On Wednesday, Jan. 6th, a mob of enraged Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol building, seeking to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election results in favor of Joe Biden. The takeover, which took law enforcement nearly four hours to quell, resulted in violent chaos unprecedented in modern times, as well as five deaths and a country shaken by an affront to the democratic process. Footage of the scene went viral, showing violent protesters wreaking havoc, smashing windows, and destroying government property. 

The Architect of the Capitol, the office that preserves and maintains the building’s art and architecture, has released an initial inventory of damage sustained during the riot. The report notes that interior damage was mostly limited to broken glass, busted doors, and graffiti. Statues and murals both displayed residue of pepper sprays, tear gas, and fire extinguishers, and will require meticulous cleaning and conservation. Outside, two 19th-century bronze street lights by Frederick Law Olmsted were broken. No major artworks were damaged, though a bust of former president Zachary Taylor was flecked with what appeared to be blood.

Photography by Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Some are less than pleased with how the current Architect of the Capitol, J. Brett Blanton, responded to the incident. The mob easily overwhelmed Capitol Building security, and video footage even shows police letting protestors through gates and idling as trespassers broke into Congressional offices. Social media users are demanding that the Capitol Police Board, which includes Blanton, the House of Sergeant at Arms, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the Capitol Chief-of-Police, should all be held accountable for what happened. The House appropriator for Capitol Police is also reportedly seeking to purge the department.

“Wednesday was a difficult day for our campus,” J. Brett Blanton, the Architect of the Capitol, said in a statement. “As the Architect of the Capitol mission calls us to serve, preserve, and inspire, it was particularly hard to watch the scene unfold.” Besides some broken windows and furniture needing restoration, the physical damage to the Capitol was less than we expected. The impact Wednesday’s riot will have on democracy, however, remains to be seen.

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