‘It escalated so quickly:’ Videographer describes Capitol chaos

An independent videographer who specializes in covering large protests said he was prompted to travel to the nation’s capital, in part, because President Donald Trump had tweeted about the Jan. 6 demonstrations weeks ahead of time.
An independent videographer who specializes in covering large protests said he was prompted to travel to the nation’s capital, in part, because President Donald Trump had tweeted about the Jan. 6 demonstrations weeks ahead of time.

WASHINGTON – An independent videographer who specializes in covering large protests said he was prompted to travel to the nation’s capital, in part, because President Donald Trump had tweeted about the Jan. 6 demonstrations weeks ahead of time.

“I thought people were going to gather outside the Capitol,” Brendan Gutenschwager told News 6, “But I definitely did not think it was going to be a total overrun of the police.”

Gutenschwager has been capturing video at major demonstrations for about five years, most recently in cities like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, and Kenosha.

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The videographer typically licenses his video footage to news organizations or shares it on Twitter.

After listening to part of the President’s speech near the White House, Gutenschwager headed to the Capitol where he knew demonstrators would be gathering around 1 p.m. as Congress began formally counting electoral votes.

He said protestors began clashing with police almost immediately.

“It was shortly after 1 p.m. and already there was mace in the air, pepper spray, police were having barricades thrown at them,” said Gutenschwager. “My reaction was just shocked at all that was happening. It escalated so quickly.”

The videographer made his way to the barricades where police officers were attempting to keep demonstrators away from the Capitol.

“There was a couple there who were actively hitting the police, pushing the police, punching the police,” he said. “Others tried to intervene a little bit and were trying basically to get the police to move aside without them getting hurt.”

As the crowd burst through the barricades, climbed the steps to the Capitol, and began breaking windows to gain entry, Gutenschwager debated whether to follow the rioters inside.

“At that moment I thought this was of such historic significance, this is of such journalistic value, this has to be documented,” he said. “There’s really no choice there. There’s such a large crowd here, this is such a significant world news event.”

Inside, the videographer said he encountered a wide variety of people wandering the Capitol.

“It was a weird juxtaposition,” he said. “There were some people there who immediately going straight for the offices, trying to find the chambers, things like that, trying to get down to the House floor. And others were streaming through, almost like it was a Capitol tour. They were just walking through, taking selfies.”

Having covered numerous protests, Gutenschwager assumed the police would quickly push back against the agitators.

“I thought for sure once people were breaching inside the Capitol that officers were going to come out, they were going to be shooting off rubber bullets, people were going to scatter. Or they might tear gas the hallway and just get people to scatter that way,” he said. “And none of that happened.”

Although the videographer has witnessed numerous clashes between police and demonstrators in the past, he said the incident in Washington was much different.

“It was the fact that it was happening at the Capitol building, this building that so many would have thought was one of the most secure buildings in the whole country,” said Gutenschwager. “And as it turns out, it was remarkably vulnerable to something like this.”


About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than 15 years. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.