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Records Show Interior Dept. Officials Knew Climate Protesters Might Turn Violent But Didn’t Stop Them

Records show officials at the Interior Department knew that demonstrations at the D.C. headquarters could turn violent.


Internal records made public by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show officials at the Department of the Interior downplayed the threat presented by left-wing climate protesters who, in October 2021, launched what could be called an insurrection by Democrats’ standards.

On Oct. 14, 2021, a swarm of demonstrators with the group People vs. Fossil Fuels stormed the Department of the Interior’s D.C. headquarters to conclude five days of activism in the nation’s capital. Fifty-five protesters were arrested in the demonstrations that turned violent, and “multiple injuries were sustained by security personnel,” according to the Interior Department. One officer was hospitalized.

[READ: Can You Spot The Difference Between These Two Insurrection Photos?]

Records compelled by the nonprofit government watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust show agency leaders were caught off guard and unprepared for the eruption of violence despite clear warnings of unrest.

On the morning of the riot, Mili Gosar, the deputy chief of staff for operations in the secretary’s office, commiserated with colleagues about protesters outside the building.

“Hey all, just a heads up if you’re in the building, Lt. [REDACTED] just called me to say there were about 30 protestors inside the building at C st. and another 60 or so outside,” she wrote. “I’m sure they’re friendly and everything is fine, but just passing along the message in case anyone is trying to head out for lunch or anything like that!”

About 15 minutes later, Interior Department Communications Director Melissa Schwartz responded with a word of caution.

“Not friendly,” Schwartz wrote. “And everyone should avoid C Street, thanks.”

Senior leadership had ample notice, however, that the demonstrators who flocked to agency headquarters planned to be far from friendly.

According to messages dated the day before the riot, Steve Hargrave, the security chief at the department, highlighted concerns over the demonstrations, which led to the cancellation of a press conference.

“I just spoke to Commander [REDACTED] with the Federal Protective Service,” Hargrave wrote. “He contacted the organizer for the peaceful visit to the DOI and she expressed concerns about the group that would accompany them to DOI. The organizer has decided to cancel the DOI visit.”

According to emails made public by Protect the Public’s Trust, demonstration organizers met with the National Park Police six days before the riot to discuss planned episodes of “civil disobedience.”

“Your application indicates a plan by your group for civil disobedience,” wrote the park ranger assigned to process the application for demonstration. “Please describe what type of civil disobedience your group is planning as well as the location and duration of those actions.”

“Perhaps we need to schedule a meeting,” the organizer wrote back in an email dated Oct. 5, 2021.

On Oct. 6, 2021, the park ranger thanked the organizer for the meeting and sent over a map of Freedom Plaza.

The assault on the Interior Department came 10 months after the infamous Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which Democrats have sought to etch into the nation’s memory by comparing the outbreak of civil unrest to 9/11 and conducting partisan show trials. House Democrats held hearing after hearing in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms to smear Republicans as complicit in the Capitol violence. Minority appointments to the select committee that conducted the hearings were barred by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Despite the dramatic display of performative outrage by lawmakers such as former GOP Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, however, whose tears on television landed him a gig at CNN, Democrats remained silent on the attack at the Interior Department in the fall of 2021, just as they were when the capital city burned under the guise of social justice in 2020.

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