The January 6 riots should never have happened. Just before he was fired, the head of the Capitol Police Force said in his defense that he had received no advance warning from any federal law enforcement or intelligence service that the US Capitol was about to come under attack. National Guard units in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia had not received any intelligence suggesting that they might be mobilized to face an armed mob trying to take over the Capitol Building.
On the contrary, the Guard units had received written orders from the acting secretary of the army to disarm; they were not to carry any weapons, ammunition, riot gear, tear gas or any personal protective devices.
Why were the soldiers closest to the Capitol building deprived of weapons?
The official answer is that no one in the federal government saw a riot coming. The troops were disarmed at the request of the mayor of Washington, who wanted the role of the National Guard limited to assisting the DC police in directing traffic during the Trump rally on January 6. It was a purely routine assignment. No weapons were needed for traffic control.
One likely but unconfirmed explanation is that the mayor had demanded that the Pentagon issue specific written orders to ensure that National Guard troops would not be seen as armed invaders of the District of Columbia. Local police tempers were still frayed over the unrequested assignment of uniformed federal troops who used tear gas to clear Lafayette Park of anti-Trump protestors. Hundreds of innocent civilians were attacked even before the permit time for their protest had expired. The beatings in Lafayette Park made national news and set off fights all over the city.
The DC police force, the MPD, had handled dozens of such protests over the years without incident, and accused the military of gross overreaction on November 15, 2020. To be fair, those troops were not troops. They were federal prison guards wearing army-style uniforms, under the personal command of Attorney General Barr. The prison guards were trained in riot control but not in peaceful crowd dispersal. Lafayette Park looked for all the world like a military takeover.
As the New Year dawned, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller wanted to make sure that such a public relations debacle would not happen on his watch. He knew that President Trump had called for a rally on January 6. Secretary Miller issued the order to strip the National Guard of any military equipment that might look the least bit threatening to civilians or to the press.
Disarmament of traffic controllers seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, the National Guard, like the MPD and the Capitol Police, were left with nothing to defend themselves in case of an attack on the Capitol by an armed mob. Nothing like that had happened for the last 200 years.
At least the defenders of the Capitol in the War of 1812 had advance knowledge that the British were coming to burn Washington down. There was no such threat on the horizon in 2021. The priority was public relations, not the Proud Boys.