One activist who called up the FBI’s tip line said, "I told them, 'Look, they’re planning to kill members of Congress and they’re openly discussing bringing guns over state lines.'"
The US Capitol Police department seemed completely unprepared when the throngs of people stormed the Capitol building. However, the attack should be no surprise since the internet was riddled with signs of extreme right-wing supporters planning and plotting the assault on the Capitol.
A look at far-right forums online shows how members were explicitly discussing ways to handcuff lawmakers using zip ties and other ways they could conduct "citizen’s arrests" of Congress members.
"[expletive] zip ties. I’m bringing rope!" one poster was quoted saying by The Washington Post.
It was clear from the open rants and the explicit jabbering that they had only one intention—to force their way through the building and to interfere with the certification of Joe Biden's election.
"Given the very clear and explicit warning signs—with Trump supporters expressing prior intent to ‘storm and occupy Congress’ and use ‘handcuffs and zip ties,’ clear plans being laid out on public forums, and the recent precedent of the plot to storm the Michigan Capitol building while the legislature was in session—it is truly mind-boggling that the police were not better prepared," said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which is one of the research groups that put together and published comments from people who plotted the attack.
Despite the fact that these findings were published before the insurrection, law enforcement officials were still overwhelmed by the rioters on January 6.
The Capitol rioters planned online for weeks in plain sight, raising questions about why the police presence was so easily overwhelmed.— ProPublica (@propublica) January 10, 2021
In collaboration with @frontlinepbs https://t.co/tN6J2qOcCB pic.twitter.com/FIx78IYlzS
Leaders of a movement known as 'Stop the Steal' wrote on December 23, "We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th," as reported by ProPublica.
In response to a since-deleted tweet by Trump that said "Will be wild," the leaders of the movement called out to Trump supporters to spill onto the streets of Washington to express their unhappiness and they called it a "Wild Protest."
"If D.C. escalates… so do we," said Ali Alexander, the founder of the movement, who also urged supporters not to come out wearing masks.
On the website, MyMilitia.com, a poster encouraged people to become violent if Biden's victory was made official. And one user commented saying: "If this does not change, then I advocate, Revolution and adherence to the rules of war. I say, take the hill or die trying," according to Forbes.
In the days that led up to the Capitol attack, there was a horror-show unfolding on the internet. Yet, officials did not pay heed to the signs. Now, there are warnings about more possible violence taking place in the days leading up to Biden's inauguration as president. On January 20, when Biden and Kamala Harris are expected to be sworn in as president and vice president, far-right groups have planned a "Million Militia March" demonstration on the Capitol grounds, as reported by The Washington Post. It was also reported that the online forums were calling for other protests and demonstrations as well.
Although Twitter barred Trump from using the platform after the incident on January 6, the social media website is still worried that January 16 and 17 might see a "secondary attack" on the Capitol building and on state government facilities.
Despite warnings, people are still unsure of whether law enforcement agencies will take it seriously, since they didn't pay heed to warnings the first time even after research agencies, private citizens, and activists brought to their notice the comments and statements made on online forums.
Marc Ginsberg, president of the Coalition for a Safer Web, who had shared his findings with government officials said, "It’s not so much that the cops weren’t aware of it. It’s almost like they were willfully ignorant of the possibility of violence."
Another activist who called the FBI’s tip line to inform them of the threats said, "It was a very difficult decision for me to call the FBI, but who else can you tell? They’re explicitly discussing committing federal crimes—attacking the Capitol, attacking the police, attacking us. I told them, ‘Look, they’re planning to kill members of Congress and they’re openly discussing bringing guns over state lines.’ I thought if that didn’t get their attention nothing would."