The man credited with stopping a gunman in a firefight on Canada’s Parliament Hill in 2014 denounced the riot at the U.S. Capitol Hill, as he appeared on the Charles Adler Tonight podcast on Wednesday.
Kevin Vickers is a 29-year veteran of the RCMP, a former sergeant-at-arms and the former director of security operations at the House of Commons in Ottawa.
“It’s always tragic, and I guess sad to see citizens not acting responsibly,” Vickers, the former Leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party said.
“The first amendment of the American constitution is for the people to have the right to form and address things in a peaceful manner, and (Wednesday) what we saw certainly wasn’t peaceful.”
On Jan. 6, a mob inspired by President Donald Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories smashed through the doors of the U.S. Capitol, pushed past security and ran amok inside the complex, taking selfies with guards and posing for photos in the halls of America’s centrepiece of democracy.
The riot occurred as lawmakers were attempting to seal president-elect Joe Biden‘s victory. The morning of the riot, Trump publicly urged Mike Pence to help his efforts and throw out the Electoral College vote result, which Pence eventually rejected. Trump also gave his supporters a boost into action that morning, urging them to march to the Capitol.
Vickers said in the interview the riot was an “attack on their democracy.”
“It’s emotion, passion. The face of democracy is respecting the dignity of the people and sometimes it’s very hard to do when their actions are repulsive,” he said.
But, Vickers said he believes democracy, at the end of the day, was upheld.
“Thank God for democracy, things were held at least to some degree where there wasn’t loss of life,” Vickers said Wednesday night.
However, as of Thursday morning, Global News reported that four people died over the course of the riot, including one woman who was shot in the chest by Capitol Police and taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The woman was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room where armed officers stood on the other side, police later said.
The three others died from medical emergencies suffered during the long protests.
In the podcast, Vickers said there were 15 separate occasions in Canada where the Chamber was overrun. “The House has had to be sit down by the speaker and up to an hour, an hour and a half, of clearing Canadian citizens out of our chambers.”
He said it’s a difficult situation because legislative institutions are “sacrosanct” in democracies. “But, people do have the right to disagree and express their views and to try to do that in a measured way so nobody gets hurt,” Vickers said.
As the U.S. riots unfolded, shocked and disgusted critics accused police of a double standard in the way they handled the Make America Great Again (MAGA) crowd, which faced far less resistance than Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters saw on several occasions last summer.
Photos from the riot show some of Trump’s supporters sitting in the offices of Congress members, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and parading around the Senate floor. It took hours before Capitol was cleared and Congress could resume its position to affirm Biden’s victory.
The criticism didn’t pass by Vickers either, but he said he believes the officers were in a challenging position. “I heard a lot of criticism of the peace officers and security forces there (on Wednesday) but I shake my head,” he said in the podcast.
Vickers said he’s been following the news and that it was clear to him there would be some type of gathering at the Capitol.
“All I can tell you, from my experience, and I believe this probably would’ve been the case in the United States, where the authorities would’ve reached out to the protesters they would’ve known and tried to come up with an approach to facilitate their protest,” Vickers said. “However, obviously, trust was broken.”
Lawmakers at the Capitol during the riots were forced to lock down in secure offices for hours before the building was cleared. Vickers said he’s not sure whether the security team would have practiced drills for an event like this.
But, he said, security would have well-established guidelines when it comes to responding to an incident to ensure the safety of politicians.
“The security people will be getting together to debrief … to ensure something like this doesn’t transpire again in the future,” Vickers said.
— With files from Rachael D’Amore, Emerald Bensadoun and Sean Boynton.