January 6, 2021

Supporters of President Donald Trump have pushed past barricades and police, climbed the steps of the United States Capitol and entered the building. A session of Congress intended to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win was halted as the mob gained entry and security escorted Vice President Mike Pence out of the chamber.

Here’s a look at coverage and what you need to know.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have locked out Trump

Twitter locked the president’s account. LOCKED it.


Twitter came under a lot of pressure to take down Donald Trump’s account when, even while the rioters were running the halls of the Capitol, the president continued to complain about a stolen election. Twitter even prevented readers from interacting with the president’s tweets.


The New York Times wrote:

Civil rights groups weighed in, saying action by social media companies against calls for political violence was “long overdue.” And even venture capitalists who had reaped riches from investing in social media urged Twitter and Facebook to do more.

“For four years you’ve rationalized this terror. Inciting violent treason is not a free speech exercise,” Chris Sacca, a tech investor who had invested in Twitter, wrote to Mr. Dorsey and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg. “If you work at those companies, it’s on you too. Shut it down.”

“We know the social media companies have been lackadaisical at best” at stopping extremism from growing on their platforms, said Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League. “Freedom of expression is not the freedom to incite violence. That is not protected speech.”

Shortly after Twitter made its announcement, Facebook (and Facebook-owned Instagram) announced it would follow suit.

— AL TOMPKINS, Poynter Senior Faculty

Washington Post editorial board calls for Trump’s removal

In a stunning editorial published Wednesday night, The Washington Post editorial board called for Donald Trump to be removed as president.

Read more …

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Writer

New barriers will arise

We will all pay a price for this attack on the Capitol. Without a doubt, the halls of Congress will become more secure than ever. The most precious institutions of our government will be more locked off from the public.

When I was a teen, my mother and I casually walked through the Capitol. We sat in the House chambers and watched in real life people I only saw in the newspaper or on TV. Common folks from Kentucky could watch our government with our own eyes. We didn’t need an appointment or an escort. Nobody searched my mother’s purse.

Read more …

— AL TOMPKINS, Poynter Senior Faculty

Where were the police? Is it illegal to incite a riot?

We’ve got answers to your questions about what happened in Washington, D.C., today.


AP, others remind journalists to mind their language

Poynter’s Al Tompkins writes, “Journalists have an obligation to use language that neither shows fear nor favor. And the words that we use to describe the occupation of the Capitol will rightfully be compared to the words we used to describe other protests, especially those which President Donald Trump condemned.”

Here is the AP’s guidance:

riot, unrest, protest, demonstration, uprising, revolt 

Use care in deciding which term best applies.

A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium. Focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s. Inciting to riot is a longstanding criminal offense involving two or more people. In the United States, a federal criminal anti-riot act was enacted in 1968 in response to violent civil disturbances and protests of that era.

Unrest is a vaguer, milder and less emotional term for a condition of angry discontent and protest verging on revolt.

Protest and demonstration refer to specific actions such as marches, sit-ins, rallies or other actions meant to register dissent. They can be legal or illegal, organized or spontaneous, peaceful or violent, and involve any number of people.

Revolt and uprising both suggest a broader political dimension or civil upheavals, a sustained period of protests or unrest against powerful groups or governing systems.

Here is the AP’s style guide on Capitol vs. capital:


Capitalize U.S. Capitol and the Capitol when referring to the building in Washington: The meeting was held on Capitol Hill in the west wing of the Capitol.

Follow the same practice when referring to state capitols: The Virginia Capitol is in Richmond. Thomas Jefferson designed the Capitol of Virginia.

Use capital for a city or town that is the seat of government.


The city where a seat of government is located. Do not capitalize.

Here are a collection of other definitions you may find useful today from Merriam-Webster:

Coup: noun

1: COUP D’ÉTAT:  a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially: the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group

2: a brilliant, sudden, and usually highly successful stroke or act

Demonstration: noun

1: an outward expression or display; a demonstration of compassion

2: a show of armed force

3: a public display of group feelings toward a person or cause

Protest: noun

1: a solemn declaration of opinion and usually of dissent

2: the act of objecting or a gesture of disapproval; especially: a usually organized public demonstration of disapproval

3: a complaint, objection, or display of unwillingness usually to an idea or a course of action

4: an objection made to an official or a governing body of a sport

protest: verb

1: to make solemn declaration or affirmation of

2: to make a statement or gesture in objection to

Riot/rioters: noun

1a: a violent public disorder; specifically: a tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with a common intent

b: public violence, tumult, or disorder

2: a random or disorderly profusion

a: profligate behavior : DEBAUCHERY

b: unrestrained revelry

c: noise, uproar, or disturbance made by revelers

riot: verb

1: to create or engage in a riot

2: to indulge in revelry or wantonness

Sedition: noun

incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority

Mob: noun

1: a large and disorderly crowd of people; especially: one bent on riotous or destructive action

2: informal: a large number of people

Mob: transitive verb

1: to crowd about and attack or annoy

2: to crowd into or around

Unrest: noun

: a disturbed or uneasy state: TURMOIL

Revolt: intransitive verb

1: to renounce allegiance or subjection (as to a government) : REBEL

Uprising: noun

An act or instance of rising up; especially: a usually localized act of popular violence in defiance usually of an established government

— Compiled by Poynter staffers Barbara Allen and Angela Fu

In the backwash of an insurrection

The overused word “historic” is too perfunctory to describe what unfolded in America today.

Vandals, egged on by the president of the United States, breached the United States Capitol, sent members of Congress scattering to a secure location, halted the confirmation of the U.S. presidential election, and occupied the Senate chambers and an office of the speaker of the house. As senators dove beneath their desks, police drew their weapons on whoever was breaking the windows of the doors leading into the chamber of the House of Representatives.

The president-elect demanded the sitting president tell his rioting supporters to go home. An hour later, the president did just that — while he told them he loved them and assured them “I know how you feel.”

He did not condemn them for parading the Confederate battle flag through the halls of the Capitol. He did not demand arrests or forceful eviction.

Meanwhile, law enforcement found and detonated a pipe bomb outside the Republican National Committee headquarters.

Minutes after the president spoke by recording, The Associated Press projected that Democrats won both U.S. Senate seats from Georgia and so Democrats will rule two of the three branches of government.

Twitter, finally fed up with the president’s posts, locked his account.

— AL TOMPKINS, Poynter Senior Faculty

How a man in a buffalo cap exemplifies modern mis- and disinformation

Jake Angeli, a supporter of President Donald Trump, speaks at a rally outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Jake Angeli stood bare-chested, wearing his trademark buffalo cap and holding an American flag, among a group of other men who stormed the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday afternoon. The well-known QAnon evangelist’s presence in such a moment was considered by some fact-checkers and researchers as the culmination of the impact of mis- and disinformation on American politics.

Read more …

— HARRISON MANTAS, International Fact-Checking Network Reporter, and CRISTINA TARDÁGUILA, International Fact-Checking Network Associate Director

‘An impressive share of the blame’

In a damning editorial, The Kansas City Star blasted Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, one of GOP lawmakers who planned to object to Wednesday’s congressional certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Read more …

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Writer

‘Rare, unusual and troubling’

Trump supporters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

For weeks, as President Donald Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric of a rigged election and how his supporters needed to fight to make sure the election, in his words, wasn’t stolen, there were fears that there could be violence before Trump left office. Those fears grew over the past few days as Trump supporters headed to Washington to protest the results of Joe Biden’s presidential victory in November.

But few expected it would actually result in people breaking into the Capitol.

NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt said, “I think we need to just step back and take a second here to underscore how rare, unusual and troubling what is going on here is. This is not something that has happened very frequently. It’s not unprecedented that there has been a breach of the House chamber, but it was many, many years ago.”

Read more …

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Writer

Journalists in and around the Capitol

Journalists on the ground at the United States Capitol Building have given their audiences a glimpse into the tense and harrowing situation unfolding right now in DC. We have gathered their tweets and will continue to update it throughout.

NBC D.C. reporter Shomari Stone captured early video of supporters of President Donald Trump pushing through the Capitol Police barrier and storming through:

Igor Bobic, a politics reporter for HuffPost, had a series of tweets detailing what he witnessed inside the Capitol building that began when protesters breached the building.

One of the tweets included this video as they faced a lone officer.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, CNN senior national correspondent Alexander Marquardt tweeted that protestors “swarmed and mobbed” his team at the Capitol building. Minutes earlier he had tweeted seeing protestors breaking through a police line and literally scaling the walls of the Capitol building.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has put a call out on social media for journalists — or people who know of one — to contact them if they have been attacked, assaulted or seriously threatened in the course of reporting. According to its website, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker brings together more than two dozen press freedom groups to create what it describes as a centralized repository for research.

Here’s the group’s tweet for more information:

“I’m not sure my legs have ever felt so heavy when we were being escorted,” tweeted Politico Congress reporter Olivia Beavers shortly before 3:25 p.m. “The nerves didn’t fully hit until I was out of the House chamber when my right one really started shaking.”

Beavers later tweeted an image of a gas mask she (and others) were given shortly after being evacuated.

Tia Mitchell, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Washington correspondent, shared a first-person account on Twitter. “It was scary. I am shaken up,” she said. “I have said my prayers, but right now I am OK.”

At 3:41 p.m., Haley Talbot, who covers Congress for NBC News and MSNBC, tweeted that she was sheltering in a member’s office with a few other reporters. She included a video:

At 3:43 p.m., Washington Post metro reporter Rebecca Tan tweeted seeing “mobs on all side of the Capitol.”

CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju tweeted of the smell inside the Capitol Building just before 4:30 p.m.

Margaret Barthel, a journalist for WAMU 88.5 and DCist, tweeted a video of Trump supporters chanting.

Perry Stein, who covers D.C. education and schools for WaPo, offered this descriptive scene from in front of the Capitol building.

Here’s more on journalists reporting from the ground in D.C. from Poynter’s Kristen Hare.

— AMARIS CASTILLO, Poynter Contributor

‘We are witnessing something beyond our comprehension’

Trump supporters attack the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

It’s supposed to be a quiet afternoon in January.

Typically, on such a day, Americans at home have their televisions on, tuning in to shows such as  “Judge Judy” and “The View” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Instead, we saw horrific images like many have never seen before in this country.

Read more …

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Writer

Some background on the U.S. Capitol.

From the U.S. Capitol visitor’s center, here’s a map of the Capitol building and the area around it.

Within Google Maps, journalists can either embed or use screenshots as long as you include the Google Maps credit. Here’s the D.C. map.

The Architect of the Capitol is a government entity and “the builder and steward of the landmark buildings and grounds of Capitol Hill.” Its page on the Capitol may have helpful information about the features, statutes, furniture and history of the building and its contents.

From the site: “The history of the United States Capitol Building begins in 1793. Since then, the U.S. Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended and restored. The Capitol that we see today is the result of several major periods of construction; it stands as a monument to the ingenuity, determination and skill of the American people.”Some commentators compared today’s events to the Aug. 24, 1814, Battle of Bladensburg, in which the presidential mansion (later called the White House) was invaded and partially burned by British troops. According to battlefields.org, “Dolly Madison and White House slave Paul Jennings famously (saved) critical relics of their new republic, among them a portrait of George Washington.”

— BARBARA ALLEN, Poynter’s Director of College Programming

Photo galleries of chaos at Capitol building

Police with guns drawn watch as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

We’ve rounded up some galleries featuring the work of photographers both inside and around the United States Capitol that capture the rising tensions as pro-Trump protestors breach the building and clash with police.

— AMARIS CASTILLO, Poynter Contributor

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