Washington publications shift focus to Capitol insurrection
by Joe Siegel
The horrific attack on the United States Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, shocked the world as thousands of angry Trump supporters descended on the building and clashed with police officers.
The two major LGBTQ publications in Washington both featured extensive coverage of the violence. The Washington Blade had two reporters and a photographer on the scene.
“We had to tear up our front page at around 3 p.m. and redo it and the cover based on the breaking news,” said editor Kevin Naff.
Metro Weekly’s front page story featured the headline “LGBTQ Advocates call for Trump’s removal from office following unrest at U.S. Capitol.”
According to writer John Riley, “LGBTQ advocates were unsparing in their criticism of the president for egging on his supporters, calling him a threat to the republic and urging his removal from office, even though he has less than two weeks left in his term.”
Metro Weekly also had to rethink its cover and issue at the last minute. “This week’s cover was intended to be something else entirely,” wrote editor Randy Shulman in the January 7 issue, “but Wednesday’s mind-shattering events at the Capitol … forced us to tear up the floorboards and rethink our message.”
The issue’s cover image was taken by photographer Lloyd Wolf. The image, according to Shulman, will “help memorialize the historical impact -— and great shame — of one of the darkest days in this country’s brief history.”
As the Blade covered the story. “The siege began shortly after President Trump spoke to his supporters who gathered on the Ellipse for the ‘Save America Rally.’ Chanting “Fight for Donald Trump” and “Stop the steal,” thousands of Trump supporters flooded the Ellipse before storming the Capitol as Trump continued to falsely claim the election was ‘rigged’ by ‘radical Democrats’ and the ‘fake news media.’ Most rally participants did not wear masks or practice social distancing to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Michael Lavers, the Blade’s national news editor realized something was very wrong as he approached the Capitol. “I heard police sirens in the distance, and my initial thought was that it was Trump’s motorcade,” Lavers said. “Members of the crowd rushed the police cars and it was at that point that I began to realize things were spiralling out of control.”
Lavers urged his colleague Kaela Roeder, who had been covering the rally, to leave due to the escalating tension. The Trump supporters were becoming increasingly boisterous.
“I saw them sitting on the Capitol steps,” Lavers recalled. “I saw people standing inside the Capitol with pro-Trump signs. It was very clear they had breached security, but once again I didn’t realize how serious the situation was inside. I saw one person on the Capitol steps with a rainbow flag, but I didn’t pay much attention to him. I was simply there to help my colleague and get videos.”
Lavers knew someone had been shot inside the Capitol but did not comprehend how dire the situation had become until he arrived home at 4 p.m. The city was placed under a 6 p.m. curfew.
Journalist in particular became a target of the rioters. As was reported by the New York Times and others, “Murder the Media” was scratched into door of the Capitol, an angry mob smashed and destroyed video equipment, and a photographer was punched.
“I personally did not feel unsafe at any point while I was at the Capitol, but my colleague obviously felt differently and it was good that she left the area,” Lavers added. “I also know that many journalists were attacked. … I am acutely aware of the risks that we journalists face in this country and around the world. It was heartbreaking to see what happened on Wednesday, and even more distressing to see my journalism colleagues targeted in the way that they were.”