On January 3rd, Congressman Jason Crow, a Democrat from Colorado and a decorated Army Ranger and veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sworn in for his second term. Three days later, Crow was sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives as the certification of the Electoral College got underway when a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists, neo-Confederates, and conspiracy theorists breached the Capitol’s security officers and stormed into the building. On Thursday morning, the 41-year-old Crow, who was running on a few hours of sleep, spoke with “Rolling Stone” and described what he witnessed during the January 6th assault on the Capitol.
I woke up like I normally do, and I went to the gym and got a workout in. I’m not going to mention the name, but I got into a debate with a Republican colleague at the gym that morning about the objection vote and whether or not it would not incite violence. I said that I thought it would; he was adamant it wouldn’t. Obviously, we learned that day the answer to that.
I wasn’t scheduled to speak but I had decided to go into the chambers. We were cycling through in blocks as members, one-hour blocks in the gallery to watch the debate. I was expecting to maybe speak later in the day. But I wanted to see it kick off and watch the procedure and the initial opening arguments.
We were there watching the debate and very early on, within the first half an hour, we looked at our phones and watched the livestream of the folks moving down the Mall. We saw the clashes happening outside; I was watching it in real-time on my phone. I started to get worried. Many of us did, as we saw the size of the crowd. I thought to myself after about a half an hour of that, “I don’t think they’ll be able to hold them back given what’s happening.”
Just a couple minutes after thinking that, I saw reports that they had indeed broken through the outer security perimeter. At that point, the security moved on to the House floor, whisked away the speaker [Nancy Pelosi] and the House leadership. Then we got word they had made it inside the Capitol. It was moving very quickly at this point. They had breached the perimeter and there were protesters inside the Capitol.
We heard yelling and screaming, heard officers running down the hallways. Some of this was on social media, like that they were in Statuary Hall. They started evacuating members on the floor, but we were in the gallery. There was confusion about what to do with us. We were held there for a minute, then were ordered to get our gas masks out because they were using tear gas in the Capitol. That’s when I knew things were out of control, that they didn’t have a plan.
Most of the members didn’t know how to use it or how to take it out of the package. I spent some time instructing members how to take the mask out of the package and help them get it on.
I saw Capitol Police on the House floor start closing the doors and locking them. I knew at that point we were trapped and there was no way out and the mob had surrounded us. Then I saw the Capitol Police on the floor started taking furniture and stacking it and barricading it against the door. I knew we were in big trouble potentially.
I called my wife. I told her I loved her and told the kids I loved them and told my wife I might have to fight my way out.
I immediately got into Ranger mode, as I say. I’m going to do everything I can, I’m going to take as much action as I can. I did a double-check of all the doors, made sure they were locked. Escorted the more senior members away from the doors, moving them into a defensive position. Asked folks to take off their member pins so that if the mobs break down the doors, the members would be harder to identify. I took a pen out of my pocket to possibly use as a weapon.
We heard the banging on the doors. The mob had reached the doors. They were trying to ram down the House floor doors. We heard gunshots breaking out, flash-bang grenades going off. I was certain at that point we would have to fight our way out, and so I resolved to do that.
We were there like that for 15 minutes. One of the officers on the floor said the special units, SWAT units, were going to try to rush up and clear a path for us. I relayed that to the officers up in the gallery with us. They said they had cleared a path but they didn’t know how long they could hold it. They opened up the door and made sure everyone got out. I waited and made sure everyone got out, and then I went out. As we left the gallery, I saw on both sides the SWAT teams had wrestled some of the mob to the ground and cleared a path for us. There were rioters on the ground with their hands spread out and SWAT team members kneeling on them to keep them down. There was yelling and screaming down the hall. They rushed us down the stairs and into the tunnels and into a secure location.
It was horrifying. I’ve seen riots before. I’ve witnessed riots when I was in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know what mobs and riots are capable of. This is the first time in 15 years I was truly afraid for my life and safety in this way.
I’ve been asked a couple of times: “How does this compare to combat?” I’ve been in some pretty heavy combat in my time in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s very different. That was my job then. You train for it, you expect it, and you’re ready for it. Never in a million years did I think I’d be in a situation like that in the U.S. Congress, in the U.S. Capitol, on the floor of the House of Representatives. I’m still trying to process that.
The Capitol is our shrine to democracy. I grew up looking at pictures of it. I grew up thinking about how sacred it is. And now I serve in that House, and I know just how important it is, the history behind every little corner of it, the statues. To have it defiled and compromised in that way, and so quickly too. It makes me sad, but right now, it makes me really angry.
This was a catastrophic security failure. If this were a military operation, the officers in charge of that operation would’ve been relieved of command on the spot. There has got to be accountability here. It never should’ve happened. Nobody can reconcile the way that we treated Black Lives Matter protesters from this summer with armored vehicles and cordons of National Guard troops on the steps of the Lincoln Monument, with the fact that in a matter of half an hour, this mob was able to breach the shrine of democracy and heart of government and take it over the way they did. I’m angry and there’s got to be accountability.
Some folks at the top responsible for securing the Capitol and the security situation should lose their jobs. I don’t think any investigation is necessary to reach that determination.
We came back afterward because we had to show we would not be intimidated. We would not be browbeaten. We would not allow a mob to stop the will of the people and the certification of this election. We were not going to allow them to win — and they didn’t. They failed.