The NYT photographer says after her press pass was stolen by rioters, Capitol police drew their guns on her
During Tuesday’s act of domestic terrorism where Trump extremists seiged the Capitol building and began violently rioting, members of the media who were there to document the scene also fell under attack simply for being members of the media, thanks to the anti-press rhetoric stoked by Donald Trump for the last four years. One female photographer for the New York Times was violently assaulted and had a terrifying confrontation with Capitol police.
Staff photographer Erin Schaff was inside the Capitol building on Tuesday, there to cover the ratification of electoral college votes certifying Joe Biden’s status as President-elect. Chaos erupted on the floor of the Senate as police made it clear the building was under threat of attack.
“I looked down the hall to the Rotunda and saw what looked like a hundred people running around, yelling and pulling around a podium,” she wrote for the Times. “I took a bunch of photos and then went to the ceremonial doors to the Rotunda, where a single police officer guarded the door against a throng of hundreds outside.”
She said the mob rushed the officer and flooded inside. She ran upstairs to get away from the crowd when she was suddenly accosted by a group of men demanding to know who she worked for.
“Grabbing my press pass, they saw that my ID said The New York Times and became really angry,” she recounted. “They threw me to the floor, trying to take my cameras. I started screaming for help as loudly as I could. No one came. People just watched. At this point, I thought I could be killed and no one would stop them.”
After the men ripped one of her cameras from her and broke the other, they ran away. No longer under the protection of her press pass, Schaff was now indiscernible to Capitol police from the rest of the rioters. She panicked and ran through the halls of the building, passing rioters and vandals in the act of destructing government property. She made her way to the balcony outside Speaker Pelosi’s office.
“This will be the start of a civil war revolution,” a man next to her said. At this point, police began deploying pepper spray and she had to find another place to hide. That’s when Capitol police found her.
“I told them that I was a photojournalist and that my pass had been stolen, but they didn’t believe me. They drew their guns, pointed them and yelled at me to get down on my hands and knees. As I lay on the ground, two other photojournalists came into the hall and started shouting ‘She’s a journalist!'”
Police then helped the three of them find a safer space to hide. After barricading themselves in another room, Schaff shares her last heartbreaking thoughts on the harrowing incident: “The two other photographers grabbed my hands and told me it would be OK, and to stay with them so they could vouch for me. I’ll never forget their kindness in that moment.”
Another photographer experienced a similarly terrifying act of violence amid a group of extremists outside the Capitol. The photographer, John Minchillo of the Associated Press, can be seen being tossed and thrown around as the mob attacked him.
The FBI is currently looking for any information helping to identify the insurrectionists who terrorized the Capitol building.