As It Happens

D.C. resident who gave BLM protesters refuge condemns 'atrocities' at U.S. Capitol 

Rahul Dubey says the attack on his city has left his head spinning and his heart aching. 

Rahul Dubey says the siege occurred just 8 blocks from his front door on Swann Street

Rahul Dubey, a Washington, D.C., resident, says he's heartbroken by the violence in his city on Wednesday when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building. (Submitted by Rahul Dubey )

Rahul Dubey says the attack on his city has left his head spinning and his heart aching. 

The Washington, D.C., resident — who made headlines last June when he gave refuge to Black Lives Matter protesters — lives on Swann Street, just a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol building, which was stormed by a mob of Donald Trump supporters on Wednesday.

The violent clashes between police and Trump supporters lasted into the night, even after the Capitol building was evacuated. D.C.'s mayor issued a curfew and warned residents to stay inside and away from the downtown area. 

"I have not been able to digest any of the atrocities that took place last night here in Washington, D.C., you know, literally eight blocks away from my front door," Dubey told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"I've been having a lot of conversations with people this morning, loved ones. We're all hurting. We're terrified. We're in shock. And I think it's going to take awhile. This is by far the darkest moment of my 45-year existence."

'They're destroying the city!'

It's a feeling that's been echoed by others who call the U.S. capital city home. In a viral video posted to Instagram by journalist Veronica Westhrin, two D.C. residents can be seen shouting back and forth about the riots.

One man shouted from his front door: "Get the f--k out of town!" That elicited a response from a woman stuck in traffic amid the chaos: "I know! They're destroying the city!"

Workers clean the debris and damage caused by a pro-Trump mob at the U.S. Capitol building. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

While protests are nothing new in Washington, some residents are questioning why officials seemed so ill-prepared for an assault that far-right extremists had been openly planning on social media for weeks.

 "I was surprised by how quickly things lost control yesterday," Jonathan Daniell, a resident of the Capitol Hill neighbourhood, told Reuters.

"It's not like this was a surprise. I mean, this was being previewed. You saw the president for weeks telegraphing that this was what he wanted, what's going to happen, I was definitely surprised that they weren't seemingly more prepared."

Steven Sund, the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, defended the agency's response to the siege, saying they "had a robust plan" for what he anticipated would be peaceful protests, but what occurred Wednesday was "criminal riotous behaviour."

Contrasts with BLM protests 

For Dubey, the scene was a far cry from what he experienced on June 1, 2020, when law enforcement descended on his street in anticipation of protests against the police killing of George Floyd. 

That day, he says Swann Street was swarming with officers, both local and federal, with helicopters buzzing overhead, all before a single protester showed up.

Those officers, he said, hemmed in the protesters and used excessive force, prompting him to open his home to those fleeing police.

Dubey gave refuge to more than 70 Black Lives Matter protesters on June 1 in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. (Submitted by Rahul Dubey )

"I can't fathom that we were able to protect 72 souls in my house that night, which is more than the police and authorities arrested all last night during an attempted coup in America," he said.

"They were ready for a BLM movement. And yet you're not ready for angry Proud Boys, white supremacists, MAGA supporters coming to the nation's capital. And I have trouble understanding why."

Four people died during Wednesday's protests. U.S. Capitol Police shot and one killed protester as she entered the building. Few details are available about the other three fatalities, which police attributed to "medical emergencies." 

Dubey says the day of the George Floyd protest changed his life. He's remained in contact with many of the activists he housed, and says he's learned so much from them about the way systemic racism works in America. 

"All I could think about was ... if they were there on the nation's capital, what would have happened to them? And we would be mourning mass murder instead of talking about this attempted coup," he said. "And that is really, really difficult for me and for my family members and our community to swallow in such an inspirational city."

Some of those activists, he said, came back to his house Wednesday with plans to head over to the Capitol building themselves — but he pleaded with them to stay inside where it was safe. 

"Before we knew it, it was past curfew. And I wasn't about to let 20-something-year-old Black youths out in our nation's capital when you have Proud Boys running around just decimating people because they're unhappy that they lost the election. And so they stayed the night," he said. 

Now he has the difficult task of explaining to his son what's been happening in their hometown.

"Everything that we know seems to be wrong. Everything that we are doing in this space, in the face of fascism, dictatorship and pure evil, is not working, and the only thing that we can do is to come together and to lead with love," he said. 

"And I promise the next generation and my son that I will do that every single day and try to stay as stoic as possible."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview with Rahul Dubey produced by Sonya Varma. 

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