Police

Police Detained Artist John Sims Without Warning in the Middle of the Night. He’s Taking His Power Back With a New Body of Work


Last week at around 2 a.m., multidisciplinary artist John C. Sims was awoken by the sound of intruders storming his home. 

Sims quickly grabbed his phone to call 911, jumping into the bathroom of his apartment, one reserved for the artist in residence at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art in Columbia, South Carolina. Sims’s solo exhibition, “AfroDixia: A Righteous Confiscation,” was in the adjacent building and features deconstructed, distorted, and reimagined presentations of Confederate symbols—including a lynching of the Confederate flag. 

As an artist showing a body of work in the South centered on a critique of revisionist historical materials, Sims immediately feared that “some white supremacist mob or the KKK had come for my life,” he told me over Zoom this week. “I didn’t want to disappear in some underground torture chamber.” 

When the intruders revealed themselves to be cops, Sims had to switch fear gears. He was taken back to his mother’s and every Black mother’s survival lesson. He prayed that the clanky radiator wouldn’t echo loudly enough to suggest that he had a gun. 

Exhibition view, John Sims's "AfroDixia" at 701 Center for Contemporary Art. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Exhibition view, John Sims’s “AfroDixia: A Righteous Confiscation” at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

After multiple pleas for an explanation, and multiple attempts to identify himself as the artist in residence, he was seized, handcuffed, and detained for nearly eight minutes. “Why are you here?” one officer asked. 

For Sims, this question was particularly gutting. “Black people are always in a defensive stance when we want to take up space. ‘Why are you here?’ they ask you. ‘What gives YOU license to do and say what you do?’”

After the police ran his license, confirmed he was in fact the artist in residence, and released him from handcuffs, he felt the pendulum swing in his favor. He was lucky to be alive when the alternative could have been a death marred by a media narrative suggesting he had asked for trouble by staging a show disrespecting the Confederate flag in South Carolina. 

Before the police drove off, he took a picture of their squad cars through the window. Immediately, he felt called to tap into his creative self—time was of the essence. He needed to translate his experience into art in order to stake a claim to the narrative before his voice got drowned out. 

John Sims, <i>A Near Death Residency: Reflections of a Black Artist/Space</i> (2021). Sims took this photo as the police were leaving the premises. © John Sims

John Sims, A Near Death Residency: Reflections of a Black Artist/Space (2021). © John Sims

The result is a new body of work that has already begun to take shape under the title “A Near Death Residency: Reflections of a Black Artist/Space, 2021.” So far, it consists of two parts: the only photo he was allowed to take as documentation of what happened on May 17, 2021, and an Artist Report he drafted in response to the police’s official incident report. This account will also provide the basis for a future film, a dramatic reenactment meant to turn the villainizing crime-show format on its head.

Sims’s booming laughter rang through my speakers as we spoke. “The police may beat my ass, but once I’m robbed of the opportunity to tell my story, my trauma of how they beat my ass?” he said. “If you squash people at that level, you don’t have a democracy. You can’t have a democracy. If people don’t have the space to express their own voice, that is evidence of the American sham.” 

***

The police department’s press release recounted a “police-citizen encounter” in which officers “noted an open door at the side of a building which is normally locked.” They entered with firearms drawn, the release stated, and “repeatedly identified themselves” as they pursued footsteps on the second floor of the building, where they placed “the man…in handcuffs to determine why he was in the building.” 

Sims’s answer to the police’s statement, which he drafted hours after the intrusion, reclaims his personhood and respect by replacing the sanitized label of “citizen” with Artist Sims. “I mimic the energy” of the original report, he explained. “I’m saying, ‘You will respect me.’” 

The document is styled like the one released by the authorities, with his “John Sims Projects” artist logo in place of the Columbia police department’s emblem and a case number of 3.14159265 (pi out to eight decimal points), a figure that Sims has been using in his art for years. 

In the official incident report, the Columbia police chief referred to the refusal of the supervising officer to allow Sims to take a photograph of the cops in his home as “the only misstep” committed by law enforcement that night. Sims is determined to transform the police department’s reductive statement of “accountability” into an indelible body of work.

The artist sees a clear line between his show, “AfroDixia,” which is about remixing artifacts of the Confederacy, and his new series, which comes out of a desire to drain law enforcement, which he calls the “cousins” of the KKK, of their power to intimidate, smear, and subjugate Black folks, stripping them of agency. 

John Sims, <i>A Group Hanging</i>. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

John Sims, A Group Hanging. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

“I’m sure there are plenty of people who thought I’d shut up and just be an artist,” Sims said. Instead, he plans to start work on the next chapter: a film that brings together what happened to him, the significance of his art, and the precarious nature of his life as a Black artist. 

“The writing paints the pictures and brings the bullets,” he said. “The film will create heat and drama around the boundaries of our sense of respect and respectability.” 

***

The anniversary of George Floyd’s death has come and gone, along with calls for community reconciliation after John Sims’s encounter with police. Since the incident, the 701 Center has invited the Columbia city mayor, police chief, and city council members to Sims’s “AfroDixia,” which now radiates with heightened significance. 

In a statement released on May 28, the 701 Center noted that “this was not the first occasion in which a resident of… the 701 Whaley Street building encountered a law enforcement officer searching the premises for a possible intruder.” But it was the first time, the statement noted, that “such an encounter led to hostile confrontation, detention, cuffing, and a records check.”

While previous encounters “resulted in courteous apologies from officers,” there was a key difference: “Mr. Sims is a Black man; the other incidents involved a white man.”

John Sims, <i>Drag Flag</i>. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

John Sims, Drag Flag. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Earlier this week, while showing the mayor, a Black man, Stephen K. Benjamin, around the gallery space, Sims was assured that he would be able to address the city council directly on Tuesday, June 1. 

At the meeting, Sims will read his Artist Report to both the city council and representatives from community organizations who have pledged their support, including Black Lives Matter South Carolina and the National Action Network

The reading will serve as the next phase of the “Near Death Residency” project, continuing the act of blending art with life, an artistic foray that Sims says was brought about by the cosmic combination of “AfroDixia,” his residency, the Southern city with its cotton-mill grounds, and the police—all players in a production for which life set the stage. 

“I couldn’t have planned this,” he said. “The experience is now part of the work.”

 

Read Sims’s Artist Report in full below.

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Police Get a Stunning Tip on the Fate of a Picasso Stolen From an Athens Museum + Other Stories


Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Thursday, February 11.

NEED-TO-READ

Philanthropist to Donate $5 Million to Help Diversify Museums  – The Indian human rights activist and gallerist Amar Singh has pledged to donate $5 million in artworks by women, LGBTQ+, and minority artists before 2025. “Museums are safe-keepers of culture and humanity,” Singh said of the commitment. “But the reality is that they have historically failed us. They have not represented humanity across the board.” The philanthropist has already donated a six-figure painting by Maria Berrio to LACMA, and a portrait of the US Inauguration poet Amanda Gorman by Raphael Adjetey Adjei Mayne to Harvard. (Vanity Fair)

Grantmaker Pulls $2 Million Grant From Poland’s “LGBT-Free Zone” – Norway Grants has pulled €1.65 million ($2 million) in European heritage funding from the Polish region of Podkarpackie after local councilors voted for a resolution to “resist the promotion of LGBT ideology.” The resolution conflicts with the grant’s founding principles of respect for all human rights. The grant was officially withdrawn last year but is just now coming to light. (The Art Newspaper)

Oaxaca Museum Staff In Standoff With Governing Foundation – A foundation that supports the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Oaxaca, Mexico, is caught in a terse standoff with museum employees. The museum’s director, Cecilia Mingüer, says that Los Amigos del MACO has not paid staff salaries for 10 months, and is vying to shut the institution down. In protest, Mingüer has been locking herself into the building at night. (TAN)

Greek Police Get a Lead on a Stolen Picasso – A new investigation has led Greek authorities to believe that Picasso’s 1939 Head of a Woman, which was taken from Athens’s National Gallery in 2012, may still be in the country. Police believe the stolen work was offered for $20 million on the country’s illicit market, but that it never found a buyer because of its high profile. Authorities hope to see the work returned before the reopening of the National Gallery in March. (ARTnews)

ART MARKET

Ali Banisadr Joins Victoria Miro – Victoria Miro has added the Brooklyn-based painter Ali Banisadr to its roster, and will hold his first solo exhibition in 2022. Thaddaeus Ropac gallery and Kasmin Gallery will continue to co-represent the artist. (Press release

Orlando Museum Names New Executive Director — The museum has hired Aaron De Groft, formerly head of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, as its new CEO and director. De Groft will replace Glen Gentele, who left the museum last February amid a clash with the board. (Orlando Sentinel)

COMINGS & GOINGS

Asian Art Museum Returns Looted Objects – San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum will return two ancient temple lintels to Thailand. The museum removed the religious relics from view after they were alerted by US authorities in 2017 that they might have been illegally exported from Thailand. They have now forfeited the objects to the government, which will work with Thai authorities to repatriate them. (Courthouse News)

An Ancient Musical Conch Is Played Once Again – Experts have discovered that an 18,000-year-old conch in Toulouse’s Natural History Museum was actually an ancient wind instrument that could have been used for ceremonial purposes. The vessel was originally archived as a cup, but after re-examination, experts found it to have been partially hand crafted and painted, and brought in a professional horn player to give it life once more. (Smithsonian)

FOR ART’S SAKE

Google Wants You to Hear Colors – A new Google Arts & Culture project called “Play a Kandinsky” explores Kandinsky’s synaesthesia by imagining what the artist might have heard when he looked at color. Based on Kandinsky’s own writings , the interactive tool lets you experience the sounds of his 1925 work Yellow Red Blue by clicking into different parts of the painting. (CNET) 

See Inside Buontalenti’s Grotto in Florence – You can now explore the Italian Renaissance architect Buontalenti’s grotto and its breathtaking Tuscan Mannerist sculptures at the Uffizi Galleries in Florence online. The site has been digitized in high-definition 3D, and visitors can walk around inside using their cell phones or computers. (Press release)

The Grotta Buontalenti in 3D. Image courtesy the Uffizi Galleries.

The Grotta Buontalenti in 3D. Image courtesy the Uffizi Galleries.

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Police Arrest 100 at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum Amid Protests Over New Lockdown Measures + Other Stories


Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Monday, January 25.

NEED-TO-READ

Four Plead Not Guilty To Toppling Statue in UK – Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Jake Skuse, and Sage Willoughby pleaded not guilty in court this morning to charges of toppling a 17th-century statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, UK. The bronze statue was pushed into the harbor this past summer during worldwide Black Lives Matter protests. The four will face a hearing on February 8. (Standard)

Moscow Artists’ Studios Are Being Razed – Around 500 studios have been earmarked for demolition in the Russian capital due to a government plan seeking to revamp the Khrushchyovka buildings, which appear throughout Moscow, into residences. More than 700 artists are facing an imminent risk of displacement and have so far been offered no concrete alternatives for their studios. The buildings, which have hosted artists since the 1960s, are leftovers of a government-subsidized studio platform that sought to train artists in the Soviet Union. (The Art Newspaper, Artforum)

Tear Gas and Protests Erupt at Van Gogh Museum – Anti-lockdown protests took place over the weekend in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The demonstrators were pushing back against a new emergency 9 p.m. curfew intended to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The rally ended with tear gas and water canons shot into the crowd, which had gathered outside of the Van Gogh Museum. More than 100 people were arrested. (Standard)

Paris Artists Struggle Amid Lockdowns – The historic Place du Tertre in Paris is normally bustling with 250 artists who rent in the square to paint portraits of visitors, but the lack of tourism this past year has brought extremely hard times on these painters, portraitists, and caricaturists, and the square is virtually empty. Belle époque artists like Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, and Picasso all once lived and worked in the area, the so-called “artists square.” (Guardian)

ART MARKET

Senghor’s Soulages Sells for €1.5 million – A painting by French artist Pierre Soulages that had previously belonged to the former president of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, sold over the weekend at Caen, France, to a European bidder for nearly €1.5 million. (Le Journal des Arts)

Galleria Continua Opens a New Paris Space – The international Galleria Continua has opened a new space just a stone’s throw from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, with a debut show curated by the artist JR. The space, inside a former wholesale leather supplier’s shop, is roughly 8,600 square feet, and its current exhibition includes works by Antony Gormley, Kiki Smith, and Michelangelo Pistoletto, among others. (The Art Newspaper)

COMINGS & GOINGS 

San Francisco Art Institute Chairwoman Resigns – Pam Rorke Levy, the chairwoman of the beleaguered institution, is leaving her post. Levy, whose six-year term officially expired last summer, stayed on through the fall and into 2021 as the school scrambled to find ways to stay open and pay off its nearly $20 million debt. The board has faced criticism for suggesting the potential sale of a beloved Diego Rivera mural that is worth around $50 million. (New York Times)

Laura Domencic to Lead Erie Art Museum – Laura Domencic, a curator and institutional leader who spent the past three years as head of a residency program in Ambialet, France, will now run the Erie Art Museum in Pennsylvania. Domencic, who is also an artist, previously spent 11 years running the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, which merged under her leadership with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers organization. (Artforum

FOR ART’S SAKE

Guilty Plea in the Ghost Ship Fire – Derick Almena, the man who converted an Oakland, California, warehouse into an artists’ live and work space, has pleaded guilty to three dozen counts of involuntary manslaughter. The space, known as Ghost Ship, burned down during a 2016 concert at the space, killing 36 of the 100 people inside. The warehouse, which was converted illegally, had only two exists, no sprinklers, and no fire alarms. (Courthouse News)

An Alphons Mucha Masterwork Finds a Home in Prague – A work consisting of 20 paintings, titled the Slav Epic, has finally found a home in Prague, Czech Republic. Alphonse Mucha’s monumental work has been without a stable home for nearly a century, but per an agreement reached this month it will now reside in the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Savarin development in the historic center of Prague. The project is set to open in 2026. (TAN)

Visitors look at paintings of the "Slav Epic", a cycle of 20 allegories tracing the history of the Slavic people and inspired in part by mythology, by Art Nouveau Czech artist Alfons Mucha, at the National Gallery in Prague. Michal Cizek/AFP/GettyImages.

Visitors look at paintings of the “Slav Epic”, a cycle of 20 allegories tracing the history of the Slavic people and inspired in part by mythology, by Art Nouveau Czech artist Alfonse Mucha, at the National Gallery in Prague. Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images.

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‘The Police Didn’t Know What Was Going to Happen’: 5 Photographers on What It Was Like to Document the Storming of the US Capitol


What has historically been the routine task of ratifying the results of the US presidential election devolved into unprecedented chaos on Wednesday as insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, overrunning law enforcement and vandalizing the building in a brazen attempt to interrupt the proceedings.

Urged on by President Donald Trump at a rally outside the White House, and fueled by the false belief that the election results are fraudulent, the protesters became an invading force, waving Confederate flags and neo-Nazi banners at the seat of US democracy.

The mob was eventually cleared off the premises and Congress resumed its session, certifying the election of Joe Biden in the wee hours of the night. But the uprising marked the first time since the British invaded during the War of 1812 that Washington was so overrun.

The scene was documented by a fearless press corps that braved tear gas, pepper spray, and attacks to record the day’s events, which so far have left five dead. We spoke to five photographers about their experiences capturing this dark moment in US history.

 

A group of pro-Trump protesters raise a giant America Flag on the West grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

A group of pro-Trump protesters raise a giant America Flag on the West grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

Over the summer, I shot 38 consecutive days of protests in Louisville, Kentucky, related to the Breonna Taylor killing. I knew there was going to be an insurrection attempt of some kind just based off of the online chatter from Trump supporters such as the Proud Boys.

I originally pitched it to Getty and they said their coverage needs were already fulfilled. But I made the nine-and-a-half hour drive anyway. This was actually my first time visiting Washington, DC. The night before, my editors said they actually did need some coverage help, so they assigned me an area to be on the east lawn.

I have a press pass that’s attached to my bullet proof vest. Dozens of people came up to me asking who I was with, and if I was Antifa. I would tell them I was shooting for Getty Images. They would say, “that sounds like fake news to me.”

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

As a Black member of the media, I have often found myself the target of harassment from these far-right groups. When I was taking photographs of Proud Boys before they started marching, one of them started fake coughing and sneezing on me without a mask.

I spoke to one of the Proud Boys, named Billy. He said he stuck up for me because some of the others thought I wasn’t really media, and that I was Antifa and was going to try to attack them. I was there with other media and I gave no sign that I was different than them other than the color of my skin. It’s a very uncomfortable position for [Black members of the media] to be in.

But I joined the Proud Boys in their formation as they marched from the west side of the Capitol to the east side of the Capitol. They started getting each other riled up, screaming and chanting. Some of them announced that it was time to rush the Capitol.

A member of a pro-Trump mob bashes an entrance of the Capitol Building in an attempt to gain access on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

A member of a pro-Trump mob bashes an entrance of the Capitol Building. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

At this point, it was pretty obvious the police didn’t know what was going to happen. They tried as hard as they could to keep the barriers intact, but eventually the Proud Boys made their way in.

I had a faulty gas mask, so I didn’t even wear it. Fortunately I wear glasses, so the pepper spray didn’t get into my eyes, but it still makes you cough and sneeze pretty heavily. The tear gas wasn’t as powerful; it just had kind of an itching burn in my lungs.

Another thing that leads me to believe the police were not prepared for this potential insurrection is that they didn’t even have gas masks on. They were suffering the effects of their own tear gas and their own pepper spray.

A group of pro-Trump rioters wave flags from a platform on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

A group of pro-Trump rioters on the Capitol Building. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

The level of violence that was happening at that point, with melee weapons and projectiles—the only thing that wasn’t happening yet was gunfire. I didn’t want to end up in position where there were live rounds going off inside the Capitol building, and I didn’t have a way out. So I stood at entrances and took photos.

There is a shot that describes the day quite well. I took it from the west pavilion, inside one of the tunnels. There are crowds inside and it’s very dark, and one of the platforms outside is stuffed banister to banister with Trump supporters. In the foreground, all you see is the tops of the heads of all of the people with the tunnel who are shrouded in shadow. There’s a natural frame from the ornate stonework of the tunnel. I was very intentional about that composition, and it turned out exactly how I wanted it.

 

Rioters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> via Getty Images.

Rioters at the Capitol. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

My plan was to start out at the rally near the White House and to make my way back to the hill for the certification, but once they marched to the Capitol, it took on a life as its own.

I initially started out on the west side of the Capitol, but a line of law enforcement officers was blocking the mob from getting access initially. I walked around to the east side right as they were about to breach the doors.

It didn’t seem like there was much of a plan. Some of them came in with full tactical gear and zip-tie handcuffs. But most seemed just intent on getting in, because that’s what the mob mentality was saying they should do.

Rioters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> via Getty Images.

Rioters gather to storm the Capitol. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

I was definitely surprised that they made it all the way in. When I came around the side of the building, I was honestly shocked that they were even on the steps. It honestly didn’t settle in until I saw the doors open and that wave of people starting pouring in. At some point I got locked in with a group of people.

I basically felt myself being carried by the flow of the mob into the Capitol. I have a hill credential, so I am allowed to be there.

I wasn’t fearful—I had so much adrenaline pumping through my system, I didn’t have time to think about that. The paper outfitted me with gear. I had a helmet, ballistic body armor, and a gas mask, and ballistic eye gear and a respirator. I was misted with pepper spray a bunch of times and my skin felt like it was on fire.

Rioters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> via Getty Images.

Rioters gather at the Capitol. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

The scene inside was chaotic. People were going in every direction. They were writing on walls and knocking over and destroying equipment that was set up for the vote. There was shattered glass on the floor.

The weirdest thing that I noticed was that a lot of them were just taking selfies of themselves in the building. They literally just broke into a federal building and now they are documenting the act!

A shattered window pane in the aftermath of a pro-Trump invasion of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

A shattered window pane in the aftermath of a pro-Trump invasion of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

I took photo of a window on the east door, you could see the crack on the bullet proof glass and I caught the reflection of the American flag in the window, and the crack is right over. And you can see some of the residue of the pepper spay projectiles on the door.

It was an after-the-moment image, but it felt very poignant and really summarized the mood, in a metaphorical sense, of what had happened that day.

 

A Trump supporter waves a flag as he stands on a government vehicle in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. Demonstrators breeched security and entered the capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

A Trump supporter waves a flag. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

I’m the editor of photography at AFP, which has about 10 or 11 staff photographers across the country. As a wire photographer, you get thrown into any situation, and you have to be able to produce. Six or seven of us were working that day.

We knew the president was speaking early, and that his supporters would be there early, so some photographers started in the morning. I had pulled the afternoon shift. In the past, people tend to start to get really aggressive and fight as the day drags on. So my job was to come on at 3 p.m. and see which way the night went.

You can see the Capitol all the way down at the Washington Monument. As soon as I got onto the mall, I could see that the press risers set up ahead of the inauguration had been taken over and the protesters had made it all the way onto the steps. You could see a thin line of police further up watching them but not doing anything.

Since I arrived late, my colleagues got much better photos of the riots with the tear gas being used. My one picture that for me captured the day was the noose someone had set up on the National Mall. It was a large structure. They wrote on the side of it “this is art.” There were a lot of people who just loved it.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather on the West side of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. Rioters breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynold/AFP via Getty Images.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather at the US Capitol. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynold/AFP via Getty Images.

I have had a lot of people saying on social media that it was fake, that it never happened, that I Photoshopped it, that nobody would do that. They want evidence; they’re like “send me more angles.” People didn’t want to believe that’s what was out there and that people were responding to it positively.

There was a lot of aggression toward the police, a lot of cussing them, telling them to go “f” themselves, saying that the police are turncoats and traitors.

In the evening, when things were quieting down, there was a Trump supporter yelling at the cops. He said “This isn’t over. We’re going to be back, and next time we’re going to bring our guns. I’m gonna see you from 60 yards away, but you’re not gonna see me”—in the sense of a scope and a rifle. He kept repeating that to the police: “You betrayed us. I’m coming for you.”

Members of the DC National Guard. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

Members of the DC National Guard. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

The people who were trying to take over the Capitol, they really believed in what they were doing and they were ready for a fight. My general sense was that they felt justified in their reaction.

On a macro scale, it was very similar to protests I’ve been to in the past and the experience of being in an aggressive crowd. But when was the last time that the Capitol was invaded? It was in the 1800s. The significance of what we were witnessing stood out more than anything I’ve ever covered in my career.

 

Tayfun Coskun, Anadolu Agency

Security forces respond to rioters storming the US Capitol. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Security forces respond to rioters storming the US Capitol. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

I have been covering protests and rallies for many years. 2020 was so busy for me with COVID-19, protests and riots. The most memorable images that I captured the were of the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting in Kenosha.

After what I saw happen in the Kenosha riots, I think I was already expecting what was coming. They seemed so angry and frustrated. But as a Turkish American, I was kind of surprised.

I started my day at 5 a.m. at President Trump’s “Save America March” event. After filing the photos from my office, I heard about lockdown of the Capitol. I ran almost 1.5 miles to get there. I saw the massive crowd was heading to the US Capitol building. I wasn’t expecting the crowd would break into the building.

The photo that I took from the scaffolding in the center shows all the crowds with a wide angle, and tells [the story of the day]. I climbed up a tiny ladder [to get up there]. I held on every step very tight.

US President Donald Trumps supporters invade the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on January 06, 2021. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Donald Trump’s supporters invade the Capitol building. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

As a journalist, I did not feel any animosity. They were mostly angry about the network TVs like CNN, AP, FOX—whoever they think is on Biden’s side. But they also attacked some journalists who were wearing all black and looked like Antifa—which they were not. My friend took a video of the crowd attacking and throwing a New York photojournalist who was dressed up all black and with a gas mask.

When I see they were breaking the media’s equipment, I felt really sad for those journalists. It could have happened to me too. You can cover the expense of the equipment, but you cannot get back your exertion, work, labor etc. I feel really sorry to them. Hope they got their SD and CF cards from the cameras…

 

"Supporters

I was planning to shoot a rally at 5 p.m., but when I heard that the Capitol had been breached, I grabbed my stuff to go.

I saw throngs and throngs of people all over the lawn and scaling the walls. There were just flags everywhere. It was so dense and thick. Everything was trampled and everyone was swarming. It was very overwhelming and a little bit frightening.

My first reaction, my eyes just welled up with tears. Congress is the center of our legislative process. It’s hallowed; it’s historic. Our elected officials work there to make laws and protect our constitution. They work for the American people, for all sides. It represents the values that are sacred to the United States. Our systems may be imperfect, but that is the place that we try to make this country the best that it can be. Seeing this mob scene and people trying to break in and wreak havoc on the foundation of our American democracy, I was very distraught.

I was listening to the people in the crowd, and they thought they were going to show the world that the election was rigged. I don’t know what they thought they were going to do inside the halls of Congress, but for them, this breach was somehow a great patriotic act to preserve fairness and election integrity in this country.

Tear gas is fired at supporters of President Trump who stormed the United States Capitol building. Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for the Washington Post.

Tear gas is fired at supporters of President Trump who stormed the United States Capitol building. Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for the Washington Post.

I knew I wasn’t going to get inside the Capitol, so I felt like should aim for a wider shot. [As I went through the crowd,] I got these guys with neo-Nazi flags firing off colored smoke from atop the walls, and photos of people scaling the walls.

After I had been shooting for awhile, my inclination was that I should move soon and try to get something different. But it was very hard to work through that crowd, so I knew I wasn’t necessarily going to get somewhere else that was better. And I could see the police were making a move to get people off the Capitol grounds.

It was getting dark, and they started firing tear gas. There was one shot where the tear gas went off and I thought “oh my gosh.”

Here’s the United States Capitol and this guy with his arms up and a Trump flag, and other people are fleeing… I knew that image was going to resonate. It captured the drama of the day, even though it was not the people storming in. It showed the scope and size and scale of the events that had happened.

 

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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