Filmmaker describes the violence of the January 6th riot : Consider This from NPR On Thursday, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol began presenting its findings in the first in a series of high profile public hearings. The panel showed videos of aides to former President Trump testifying that his claims of a stolen election were simply not true. Some used more colorful language.

The committee seeks to show that the mayhem at the Capitol was not spontaneous, but rather an orchestrated subversion of American democracy. And they say former President Trump was a key player.

The hearing also included video of the Proud Boys at the Capitol on the day of the attack. We speak to documentary filmmaker Nick Quested who shot some of that footage and testified before the committee on Thursday.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment to help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

Email us at considerthis@npr.org.

January 6th hearings begin, with a focus on the Proud Boys

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For nearly a year, the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has been working behind closed doors. Thursday night, their work came into the light.

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BENNIE THOMPSON: January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, to overthrow the government. The violence was no accident. It represents Trump's last stand, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power.

KELLY: Chairman Bennie Thompson. In a primetime hearing, the committee played previously unreleased recordings of the violence and mayhem that day. One witness who testified was Officer Caroline Edwards of the Capitol Police.

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CAROLINE EDWARDS: It was carnage. It was chaos.

KELLY: Edwards, who was injured in the attack, told the committee it felt like a scene from a war.

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EDWARDS: It was something like I'd seen out of the movies. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. You know, they were bleeding. They were throwing up. They were - you know, they had - I mean, I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people's blood.

KELLY: Prosecutors say the investigation is the biggest probe in U.S. history in terms of number of defendants and the amount of evidence. Committee staffers have interviewed more than a thousand witnesses and reviewed more than 100,000 documents. Yesterday the committee played video clips from depositions with key members of President Trump's inner circle who said Trump knew he lost the 2020 election and sought to overturn that election anyway. Former Attorney General William Barr said he spoke with Trump three times regarding the election.

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WILLIAM BARR: I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was [expletive].

KELLY: The House committee cannot bring criminal charges, but its findings could put pressure on the Justice Department to pursue a criminal investigation. And with their statements and questions, committee members worked to build their case. Representative Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the committee, had a message for fellow Republicans who are defending Trump and who've dismissed the investigation.

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LIZ CHENEY: Tonight I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible. There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.

KELLY: January 6, the investigators argued, was not a spontaneous mob. It was an orchestrated subversion of American democracy, and former President Trump was at the center of it. CONSIDER THIS - the January 6 committee says it is telling the story of the insurrection to make sure it never happens again. We'll hear directly from one of their first public witnesses who saw that story unfold firsthand and filmed it. From NPR, I'm Mary Louise Kelly. It's Friday, June 10.

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KELLY: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. In the committee's presentation of its findings, the far-right extremist group known as the Proud Boys plays a key role. One Proud Boys member told the panel the group's numbers were directly influenced by former President Trump's suggestion that Proud Boys should, quote, "stand back and stand by."

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Would you say that Proud Boys numbers increased after the stand back, stand by comment?

JEREMY BERTINO: Exponentially. I'd say tripled, probably.

KELLY: Just this week a federal grand jury charged five members of the Proud Boys, including the group's leader Enrique Tarrio, with seditious conspiracy related to the attack on the Capitol. All five men have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say Tarrio helped coordinate the violent effort to disrupt the electoral count, but he was not at the Capitol on January 6. Filmmaker Nick Quested was there and testified on Thursday.

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NICK QUESTED: I documented the crowd turn from protesters to rioters to insurrectionists. I was surprised at the size of the group, the anger and the profanity. And for anyone who didn't understand how violent that event was, I saw it, I documented it, and I experienced it.

KELLY: Quested was working on a documentary about the Proud Boys and was embedded with them at the Capitol on the day of the attack, when several members of the group played a key role in the breach of the Capitol. He spoke today with my colleague Ailsa Chang.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: So I want to go back to January 5, 2021. You testified yesterday that you were with the leader of the Proud Boys that day, Enrique Tarrio. You were filming him for your documentary. You testified that you saw him meet in a parking garage with the leader of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers. And I want to ask you, what did Tarrio tell you about what happened during that meeting?

QUESTED: Mr. Tarrio told us that he discussed his communications with his friends. And he was asking for some advice from Kelly Sorrell, who is a lawyer that has some experience in Second Amendment issues.

CHANG: OK. Did Tarrio mention anything, anything at all at the time that might have suggested what would happen on January 6, the next day?

QUESTED: No. There was no projection forward. They're discussion was about where he was going to stay and about the security of his communications because he's had his computer, his phone and his Apple Watch held by the D.C. police after his arrest for carrying the extended magazines into D.C. and for burning the Black Lives Matter flag on December the 12. I mean, but in retrospect, he did mention that his - he was concerned for his boys and wanted to stay close to them and stay - so he chose to stay in Baltimore, which is about, you know, half an hour to 40 minutes north of D.C.

CHANG: Right, right. OK. Well, the next day, on January 6, you were filming the Proud Boys when they attended a rally in Washington, D.C. They marched to the Capitol. What did you see once you arrived at the Capitol? Just describe it real quick for us.

QUESTED: Well, there's two aspects to us arriving at the Capitol. First is at 10:30, we picked up the Proud Boys as they're marching down the Mall. And we are trying to cover it like a normal scene, like we're running ahead to get shots or to the side or even inside them. And we walked past the Capitol. And we walk past the Capitol at 11:52 a.m. And there was only one police officer on the barricades that subsequently are overrun by the protesters. We then walk around the Capitol, and then we doubled back. And they had lunch at this taco truck, food truck.

And then around 12:45, we walked over to the peace circle and we stopped. And what was notable about that was there was this man called Ryan Samsel who had these white sleeves on and a T-shirt above his - this long-sleeved white shirt. And he puts his arms around Biggs, who's one of the Proud Boy leaders. And I hadn't seen this man before, so it's a little strange because Mr. Biggs doesn't seem like the cuddliest person in the world. And then we - I saw Mr. Samsel walk up towards the barrier.

CHANG: I'm so sorry for cutting in, but what I want to understand from your perspective, in your mind, were the Proud Boys simply there to attend a rally and things just got out of hand, as many of those who support them say is what happened or was violence the plan? What was your sense that day?

QUESTED: I don't know if violence was the plan, but I do know that they weren't there to attend the rally because they had already left the rally by the time the president had started his speech. You know, I think if you wanted to look to their intentions, you should look more at their text chats and their communications prior to the event. But from what I catch it on the day, I can't speak.

There's only one moment where the sort of facade of marching and protesting might have fallen, which is there was a - one of the Proud Boys called Milkshake - and Eddie Block, on his livestream, catches Milkshake saying, well, let's go storm the Capitol with Nordean - Rufio - one of the leaders of the Proud Boys say, you could keep that quiet, please, Milkshake. And then we continued on marching.

CHANG: Well, I am curious because you've been a long-time documentarian. You've been in war zones. When you were there that day, how much did you fear for your own safety?

QUESTED: Well, I did get into - my camera was broken by a rioter, and I did get into some scuffles. But when you have your camera, you have a function in this environment. So you're not really thinking about the ramifications of every - of what's going on. And normally, in riot circumstances, the police are the adversary. And this time, the police weren't pushing back. They weren't using water cannons or dogs or large quantities of mace and tear gas. The police were very passive and restrained because I think they were so overmatched. They felt that any type of pushback would have been catastrophic for them. And it ended up being catastrophic until they could hold the line At basically the upper tunnel or after they pushed back the protesters out towards 5 o'clock.

CHANG: You had a chance to testify for something like eight and a half, maybe nine minutes last night. Is there anything you think Americans should know about January 6 that maybe you were not asked by any of the panelists last night?

QUESTED: I don't - I think the committee have laid out a very erudite and compelling roadmap to the case that they are now going to prove with their witnesses and with the investigation. So I'd like to reserve that until after the committee has made its case because despite the the politicization of the process, I think the committee is endeavoring to present the facts. And I'm interested to see how that all comes together. And hopefully, that presentation of the facts will enable Congress to provide legislation that would stop this ever happening again.

CHANG: I'm curious how you're feeling inside as a journalist, as a documentarian, because now that you have seen the trajectory of events that occurred on January 6 and afterwards, does it make you think back to things you may have missed while you were following around members of the Proud Boys, things that you should have paid closer attention to? Do you replay things that you observed that maybe you interpret differently now in retrospect?

QUESTED: Oh, in hindsight, you can always criticize your technique and your interview technique because we were making a very different film when we were interviewing Mr. Tarrio. We were making a film about why America is so divided. So in retrospect, if I'd have known what I know now about the text chats and the interactions between the three strands of the Trump campaign's efforts to maintain President Trump as the president, I would be asking very different questions. So, you know, I think I would go back and do everything differently.

KELLY: Filmmaker Nick Quested.

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KELLY: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

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