DC Mayor Muriel Bowser had imposed a 6 pm curfew earlier on Wednesday, and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee warned in a press conference that violators who remained on the streets would be arrested.
Another 15 people had been arrested earlier on Tuesday and Wednesday for protest-related activities, though hundreds more were allowed to leave the Capitol premises with nothing but a warning.
None of those arrested prior to the curfew were Washington, DC, residents, said Contee, who is leading the charge to clear the Capitol and establish a law enforcement perimeter. He said that officers also confiscated five firearms, including long guns and handguns, which, under DC law, members of the public can neither open-carry nor concealed-carry even with a license from another state.
“Due to the violent behavior toward the police officers there and their intent on gaining access to the Capitol, a riot was declared,” Contee said. “It was clear that the crowd was intent on causing harm to our officers by deploying chemical irritants on police to force entry into the United States Capitol building.”
According to a 6 pm report from Mayor Bowser’s office, the people who were arrested prior to the curfew were charged with offenses including assault, destruction of property, crossing a police line, carrying a pistol without a license, possession of a large-capacity ammunition-feeding device, and unregistered ammunition.
US Capitol Police, who appeared severely understaffed Wednesday, did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to whether they had made arrests of their own. FBI SWAT teams, Homeland Security Department Federal Protective Service officers, and National Guard troops were also eventually deployed to the Capitol.
At one point, police appeared to remove barriers on the Capitol grounds allowing demonstrators to advance closer to the building. But they changed tack after 4 pm, when police started using flash-bangs and other riot control tools to move the crowd. Hundreds eventually left of their own accord after being told they would be arrested if they stayed on the premises, CNN reported.
But Bowser assured the public in the press conference that “anyone who has engaged in these activities or continues to engage in these activities will be held accountable.”
“The behavior that we are witnessing is shameful, unpatriotic, and above all, it is unlawful,” she said. “There will be law and order and this behavior will not be tolerated.”
It’s not clear whether additional arrests of people who stormed the Capitol will follow. It’s possible some of them will later be identifiable by photos of them inside lawmakers’ offices, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the floor of Congress.
But so far, the rioters have faced little consequence for the day’s violent insurrection, marking a stark contrast to when DC police and the National Guard unleashed tear gas on peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters last year.