Capitol Police Chief Calls January 6 Riot a 'Terrorist Attack'

Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, said the agency should have been more prepared for the deadly riot on January 6—an event she described as a "terrorist attack."

Pittman told lawmakers Tuesday the agency knew days before the Capitol storming that there was a "strong potential for violence" and that Congress was the target.

"On January 6th, in the face of a terrorist attack by tens of thousands of insurrectionists determined to stop the certification of Electoral College votes, the Department failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours," according to prepared remarks reported by The New York Times on Tuesday. "Although the Department fulfilled its mission of protecting Members and democracy ultimately prevailed, the insurrectionists' actions and the Department's inability to immediately secure the U.S. Capitol emboldened the insurrectionists and horrified millions of Americans."

Pittman went to detail how the agency knew January 6 would "not be like any of the previous protests." She said they were aware militia groups and white supremacists organizations would be at the event and that many participants would be armed.

"Let me be clear: the Department should have been more prepared for this attack," Pittman said in her statement to Congress, noting that the agency had 1,200 people working when the riot took place but that it was "no match" for the size of the riot.

Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. on January 6 to protest the congressional certification of President Joe Biden's victory. Five people died during the attack, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

U.S. capitol riot on January 6, 2021
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6. Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol Police, told Congress Tuesday that the agency should have been more prepared for the deadly riot—an event she described as a “terrorist attack.” Samuel Corum/Getty

Before the violence erupted, the protesters gathered for a "Stop the Steal" rally near the White House, where then-President Donald Trump himself made an appearance. In his address, Trump continued to make baseless allegations that the 2020 election was stolen from him and riddled with fraud. He told his supporters that "we will never give up" and that they would have to "fight much harder."

Shortly after, a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol building to disrupt the joint session of Congress. Photographs show people clashing with federal police, breaching the building and making their way through lawmakers' offices. Federal prosecutors are continuing to charge participants in the Capitol riot. So far, more than 100 people have been arrested.

While Pittman apologized to Congress for security failures, she clarified that in her experience, "I do not believe there was any preparations that would have allowed for an open campus in which lawful protesters could exercise their first amendment right to free speech and at the same time prevented the attack on Capitol grounds that day."

Pittman was not the department's chief when the riot took place. She began serving in the position on January 8, according to Capitol Police website. She is the first woman and the first African-American to lead the law enforcement agency.

Newsweek reached out to the Capitol Police for additional comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.