WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly one year after Brendan Gutenschwager captured video of demonstrators marching towards the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the independent videographer still recalls the tension as the crowd first confronted law enforcement along the building’s perimeter.
“You had 50 to 100 officers outside on the west side of the building and well over 10,000 people, with the numbers growing every single minute,” Gutenschwager said. “Seeing this massive crowd forming, with people at the front already in either hand-to-hand combat with police or throwing things at them, [I was] wondering where this was going to go.”
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Gutenschwager spent much of 2020 traveling the country documenting protests and riots in cities like Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and Kenosha. The videographer typically licenses his video footage to news organizations or shares it on Twitter.
Reflecting on the demonstrators who broke windows and doors to enter the U.S. Capitol while Congress was in session, the videographer believes the incident in Washington, D.C. was symbolically different than prior protests.
“I think the timing of it, and the setting, was so jarring for people,” Gutenschwager said. “For any of the other moments — riots, unrest — that happened throughout 2020, there may have been more actual physical damage in terms of buildings, vehicles, personal property, things like that. But they weren’t happening specifically during an electoral college certification.”
Although Gutenschwager witnessed demonstrators physically attacking law enforcement officers, he now believes not everyone in the crowd was aware of the violence that occurred before the Capitol was breeched.
“You had people at these front lines that were fighting with police, getting very violent, [using] bear spray, throwing different objects and stuff,” he said. “But simultaneously you had people way back in the crowd that have no idea any of that is going on.”
Gutenschwager believes it is difficult for those who were not in Washington, D.C. that day to grasp the size of the crowd and how they outnumbered Capitol police officers.
“You had some (officers) that were holding firm and refusing to give an inch in certain parts of the building [while] others were getting completely overwhelmed and having to basically abandon post,” he said.
Federal authorities have used images from Gutenschwager and other videographers to identify and later prosecute suspected rioters.
Those videos have also given the public a better understanding of what occurred on Jan. 6.
“I’ve just never seen one individual date so dissected and analyzed,” Gutenschwage said. “As a professional, I’m glad I was able to be there to cover and to show people what happened that day.”