How the Attack on the Capitol Happened, From Planning to Siege to Arrests

Last week’s attack on the US Capitol is already one of the most unforgettable events in American history. The Capitol building was last breached when British forces invaded during the War of 1812. 209 years later, a mob of insurrectionists attacked the building at the behest of none other than the sitting, but on-the-way-out, US president Donald Trump.

Trump called the mob to the Capitol building to thwart the certification of Biden’s election victory through tweets dating back to late December. What followed was a nearly unprecedented attack on Senators, members of Congress, Capitol police, and journalists attempting to document the scene. Details continue to emerge in press reports and on social media. In an attempt to corral the events of this day, GQ presents this summary of the events leading up to the attack, what happened on January 6th, and the fallout since.

The Call to Action

Despite Washington Police Chief Robert Contee’s claim that “There was no intelligence that suggests that there would be a breach of the US Capitol,” explicit planning took place in the weeks leading up to January 6th on social media, Trumpist message boards, and sites like 4Chan.

Organizers across different groups—including Stop the Steal, TheDonald message board,, and a Facebook group called Red State Secession—were spurred by a Trump tweet on December 23rd that directed his supporters to attend a “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” “Once Trump said be there,” Arieh Kovler, a political consultant who studies alt-right activity online, told GQ, “they interpreted that as a call to action, as their marching orders.”

Planning started that day, when Leaders of a Stop the Steal group wrote in a text to supporters, “We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th,” according to PBS. They even called the event the “Wild Protest” and created a dedicated website for it,, that’s since been taken down. Calls to action grew increasingly violent. On the Oath Keepers forum, where former and current pro-Trump military personnel congregate, members attested they were “ready to die for my country once again” in any effort to stop the certification.

How They Planned It

On the TheDonald forum, plans grew increasingly specific: posters discussed that there are only 2,000 Capitol police members, a number they can easily overwhelm. Floorplans were posted alongside directives. “Find the tunnels. Arrest the worst traitors,” one posted, according to The Daily Beast. One person planning on attending the rally wrote a post titled, “Today I told my kids Goodbye.”

Advance Democracy, a nonprofit research group, found that 50% of posts on TheDonald.Win, a gathering place for Trump supporters created after Reddit banned a similar channel, “featured unmoderated calls for violence in the top five responses.”

“All this bullshit about not bringing guns to D.C. needs to stop,” one post read. “This is America. Fuck D.C. it’s in the Constitution. Bring your goddamn guns.” Another forum member wrote: “ARMED WITH RIFLE, HANDGUN, 2 KNIVES AND AS MUCH AMMO AS YOU CAN CARRY.”

Discussion wasn’t contained to message boards, either. Plans were made on the popular-with-the-far-right social media platform Parler, where one user asked followers to vote for who they wanted to see “dispatched” first between Nancy Pelosi, John Roberts, and Mike Pence. On Twitter and TikTok, Advance Democracy found accounts associated with QAnon frequently tweeted about January 6th in the lead up to the day.

Some rioters seemed prepared to go through with violence Wednesday, too. They brought a noose to the Capitol steps. Some wore tactical gear, bulletproof vests and brought zip-ties (here, too) presumably to shackle hostages.

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