There have been many incidents at the Capitol in the last 220 years, but not on this scale
The Capitol has not seen anything like this in more than 220 years: a violent mob burst through the majestic colonnade, disrupts the transfer of power, and desecrates the stronghold of the world’s greatest democracy.
But this is by no means the first time violence has occurred in the Capitol.
In 1814, just 14 years after the building opened, British soldiers tried to burn it down during the war that began in 1812. The invaders first ransacked the building and then set fire to the south and north wings, destroying the Library of Congress. A sudden downpour prevented complete destruction, but, according to architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, all that remained of the building were “majestic ruins.
In later times other events took place which belied the motto on the rostrum of the House of Representatives: “Union, Justice, Tolerance, Liberty, Peace. There were bombings and shootings in the building. One legislator nearly killed another.
The most famous episode occurred in 1954 when four Puerto Rican nationalists unfurled the island’s flag and opened fire from the House Gallery, shouting “Freedom for Puerto Rico.” Five congressmen were wounded, one of them seriously.
“I didn’t come to kill, I came to die for Puerto Rico!” – group leader Lolita LeBron shouted as she was detained.
There were other incidents. In 1915, a German planted three sticks of dynamite in the Senate reception room, coming into the empty building at night.
A man who had previously poisoned his pregnant wife subsequently shot and killed financier J. P. Morgan Jr., planted an explosive device on an ammunition steamer bound for Britain, and then killed himself before he could be arrested.
In 1971, the left-wing Weather Underground planted a bomb in a building to protest U.S. strikes on Laos, and in 1983, the Communist Movement blew up the Senate in response to the invasion of Grenada on May 19. In both
no one was injured, but the damage from the bombings reached hundreds of thousands of dollars. Security measures in the building have since been tightened.
The bloodiest attack occurred in 1998 when a mentally ill man opened fire on a checkpoint and killed two Capitol police officers. One of the dying officers managed to wound the perpetrator, who was arrested and later institutionalized. A nearby statue of Vice President John Calhoun still bears the mark of the bullet.
In 2013, a dental hygienist attempted to enter the White House grounds with her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter in her car. Police chased the intruder to the Capitol, where the woman was shot and killed.
There have been other high-profile attacks. In 1835, an insane painter attempted to fire two pistols at President Andrew Jackson near the building. The guns misfired, and Jackson managed to disarm his attacker.
In 1856 Congressman Preston Brooks, a member of Congress attacked abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber after his anti-slavery speech.
Brooks beat Sumner so badly with his cane that he was not able to return to work until three years later. Brooks could not be suspended, but he resigned and was immediately re-elected.