A Huffington Post journalist from San Diego who shot a stunning video last week of the moment rioters broke into the nation’s Capitol Building calls the efforts of a lone police officer trying to fight off the angry mob heroic.
Igor Bobic, a senior political reporter for the Huffington Post who grew up in San Diego's Rancho Penasquitos neighborhood, was in Washington, D.C., covering last Wednesday’s electoral vote certification and anticipating a day-long process. He never expected to witness what would turn out to be one of the most significant moments in the history of American democracy.
On Tuesday, Bobic, 33, recalled peering out from a third-floor balcony of the Capitol and seeing protesters at 2:07 p.m.
“It was a little weird to me when the barriers had collapsed and I saw people at the immediate foot of the building," the Mt. Carmel High School alum said. "That never happens.”
About seven minutes later, Bobic said, he heard a commotion downstairs.
“I heard a bunch of yelling, screaming," Bobic said. "You typically never hear anything like that in the halls of Congress."
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Bobic said he instinctively hit the record button on his iPhone and ran toward the yelling. At 2:14 p.m., he would record a moment documenting the gravity of the historic day. His video shows a Capitol police officer single-handily trying to fight back a group of rioters.
“You see in that video, this lone police officer struggling to keep this mob at bay," Bobic said. "It seemed like, to me, he was alarmed as much as I was, and his reaction was kind of making me more fearful."
Bobic said an inner voice was likely telling him to get out of the area but concedes that his reporter’s instinct kept him there.
“I really didn’t realize how close [it] came to disaster in the Senate at least until even a couple of days after the attack, Bobic said.
“You see the officer retreating back up the stairs, radioing for back up, telling his colleagues, ‘Second floor, second floor, there’s a breach second floor!" Bobic said. "’And in my mind, I’m thinking, 'Where is everybody? Why is it only one guy?' "
Bobic said he’s grateful to be able to tell the story of the officer, who is Black. At one point, the officer led the rioters past a portrait of the first elected black senator, who was elected in the 1870s - Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Mississippi Republican.
“If I wasn’t there, I don’t know if his story would be out there, and I’m just so glad that it was, it got captured on camera," Bobic said. "That’s all that matters to me."
Bobic also credits the officer for leading rioters away from the entrance to the Senate chamber, which at that point hadn’t been secured.
“If the mob had decided to turn right instead of left, if they knew where they were going, I think, we could have very easily seen a breach of the Senate chamber itself," Bobic said, adding "if they had managed to get in, I know there were big strong guys waiting there with very long guns and 100 members of the Senate fearing for their lives."
Once the Capitol was stormed, however, Bobic was witness to the group running rampant in one of America’s hallowed grounds.
“From what they were saying -- ‘We’ve got to stop this, the traitors, this is our America' -- it seemed like they were convinced that they legitimately had to do this to save Democracy in their warped minds,” Bobic said.
It was also clear the angry group was on a mission to locate members of Congress.
“They were going door-to-door, asking, 'Where the F are these guys?' Where are the Senators,' " Bobic said. "They asked me if I knew where the Senators were. I said, no, I didn’t.”
Bobic has posted several videos of the riot, and also stunning photographs, on his Twitter page.
“I followed them inside the Senate chamber," Bobic said. "They were jubilant, they were happy, they were screaming, 'Wow!' One guy said, ‘Cool,’ to his buddy," Bobic said. "They were taking photos, selfies. It seemed like just a gross, gross day."
A week after the sad chapter in American history, Bobic said he’s still processing what happened. But the event has understandably struck an emotional nerve.
“There’s so much history in this building, and to see, particularly, a Confederate flag flying in the halls of the Senate is just -- outraged me," Bobic said. "I’m more pissed off than anything else right now that this happened, this could have happened, that this scene that you see in Third World countries happened here. I still can’t believe it."