Two weeks ago, Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and uploaded an enormous archive documenting their crimes onto the embattled social media platform Parler. The consequences of that day will likely have ripple effects in the U.S. for years to come. But the digital trail left behind by rioters is providing an immediate demonstration of the self-surveillance apparatus that we live in on a daily basis. Now, you can take a god’s-eye-view of the riots as they unfolded over the course of that historic afternoon.
In the immediate aftermath of the Trump crowd’s attempt to derail the 2020 presidential election, Parler was forced offline as its business partners in tech cut ties with the right-wing social messaging platform. But before Parler disappeared, a helpful digital researcher archived a ton of incriminating video evidence that was uploaded to the platform—metadata and all. In the trove of videos collected from Parler’s lifespan, ProPublica identified about 2,500 videos believed to show footage of the capital riots, and it’s narrowed that batch down to 500 clips of newsworthy events that you can explore in an interactive timeline.
ProPublica’s project breaks down the hours between noon—when President Trump told the rioters their right to vote had been stolen and urged them to head to the Capitol building—and the conclusion of the chaos around 6 p.m. ET. You can step through the crowdsourced clips from three perspectives: around D.C., near the Capitol, and inside the Capitol.
“We believe that presenting this large group of videos is not only undeniably in the public interest but that collecting them in this way is the essence of a transformative fair use under the copyright law,” Jeremy Kutner, ProPublica’s general counsel, said in a statement. The outlet explained that in addition to providing documents of crimes and threats against lawmakers, the videos provide counter-evidence to some Trump supporters’ claims that the riot was instigated by antifa or other left-wing boogeymen. As the attackers are being charged with a litany of crimes, they’ve told courts that they support the president and were doing what he asked of them. Court-reviewed evidence will always be more important than an out-of-context video, but when the list of videos numbers in the hundreds, they can make a compelling case on their own.
Even without the incriminating videos, the rioters would still likely be tracked down by law enforcement tracing the movements of their cellphones in the Capitol building. Whether or not it changes anyone’s mind or leads to the arrest of any new suspects, ProPublica’s project is one of the more fascinating pieces of documentation we’ve seen from that chaotic day.