Chris Black: A reporter’s perspective on the D.C. mob

Jan 7, 2021

Marion resident Chris Black watched along with the rest of the world as an angry mob stormed the Capitol building in protest of Joe Biden’s confirmation as president on Jan 6. But for Black, those insurrectionists didn’t just storm the people’s house — they stormed her house. 

“It’s like somebody rifled through my house and stormed my drawers,” Black said. 

Black is a retired reporter who spent years covering the hill. 

She started at the Capitol as a 23-year-old reporter with the Lowell Sun. Later, with the Boston Globe, Black spent her time researching, breaking stories and chasing down chiefs of staff before she finished out her career as a Washington reporter for CNN.

“Congress was my graduate school,” Black said. 

The hill was a place where Black not only watched the democratic process unfold, but took part. 

“I felt like I was an integral part of the democratic process,” she said. 

Black said the Capitol — with its high ceilings, ornate details, statues and paintings — was like a second home to her. It was a place where, for many years, she worked every day with reverence for democracy. 

“You can sort of feel the sense of history in the building,” she said.

But the place goes beyond just history for Black. 

“It’s a sacred place to me,” she said. “It’s like going to a church, or a monastery, or a synagogue, or a mosque.” 

In her time as a reporter in Washington, she would be taken aback by vacationers touring the building in beach attire.

“They didn’t respect this temple of our democracy,” Black said. 

But flip-flops, shorts and sunglasses are a far more forgivable offense than insurrection, vandalism and violence. 

One man from Arkansas who broke in and stuck his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, leaving her a note that called her a b****, was particularly painful for Black. 

“How dare he?” she said. 

Black said she had seen no worse day for the Capitol in all her time as a reporter. 

“I was there on 9/11,” she said. “And it wasn’t as bad as what I saw yesterday.”

On Jan. 6, it was a place where she watched as her high ceilings, statues, and paintings were under attack by a mob she said was “spitting on our democracy.” 

For Black, the man to blame is the man in charge. 

“History will be very unkind to Donald Trump and those who enable him,” she said. 

Still, Black said she’s “more optimistic than pessimistic” that the country can heal, and that the anger and hatred that fueled the mob aren’t sustainable. 

But on Jan. 6, the change was stark: a building where even the highest lawmakers of the land follow a dress code became a place ransacked by rioters.

“It’s a very dignified, respectful place,” Black said. “And these people walking in, sprawling in the chairs, taking selfies — wow.”

“It was a shocking, shocking, shocking scene.”