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Images Of Iowan Storming The U.S. Capitol Become Notorious

Protesters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, near the Ohio Clock. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Doug Jensen, a 41-year-old Des Moines resident, gestures to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington last Wednesday, near the Ohio Clock.

Of all of the harrowing images that photojournalists captured of the mob of pro-Trump extremists that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, among the most iconic photos is that of an Iowan: 41-year-old Doug Jensen of Des Moines. Wearing a shirt emblazoned with a large Q representing the conspiracy theory QAnon, photos of Jensen confronting police officers were among those carried on front pages and distributed by wire services around the world.

“Trump Causes Chaos In Washington” reads a headline in Le Monde, above an image of Jensen, maskless and arms spread wide, advancing on a law enforcement officer inside the Capitol.

In a video recorded by Huffington Post journalist Igor Bobic, Jensen can be seen at the front of a group of rioters marching through the Capitol towards the Senate chamber and apparently chasing a lone Black police officer, identified by CNN as Eugene Goodman of the Capitol Police Department.

According to reporting by Bobic and the Washington Post, the officer can be seen luring Jensen and the other rioters away from an entrance to the Senate at the exact moment officers within the chamber were scrambling to secure the doors in order to protect the lawmakers sheltering in place inside.

In a tweet sent Saturday evening, Bobic recounted “how much of a close call it was in the Senate.”

“Looking again at the video I took of the mob storming the Senate, there’s a moment when the lead rioter looks right for a second, before continuing to follow the officer left, away from the immediate entrance to the Senate. This happened at 2:14,” Bobic tweeted.

According to the Washington Post, the Senate was sealed at 2:15 pm.

Jensen was arrested Friday night and faces five federal charges, according to FBI spokesperson Amy Adams: knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disrupting the orderly conduct of government business; violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building; and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.

According to Sgt. Ryan Evans of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Jensen is currently being held at the Polk County Jail. It is not clear whether Jensen is being represented by an attorney.

According to the Des Moines Register, Jensen is scheduled for a first appearance in federal court on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Des Moines.

As of Monday afternoon, court records in the case were not available on an online federal database. Calls for comment made to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia were not answered.

A review of Jensen’s social media posts indicate he was a vocal supporter of President Trump, as well as an adherent to the QAnon myth, sometimes referred to as a “collective delusion”, whose followers believe that the government is run by a secret cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles.

Jensen’s brother, William Routh of Clarksville, Arkansas told the Associated Press that the internet had a profound influence on Jensen that “confused or obscured his views on certain things”.

“[H]e thought that maybe this was Trump telling him what to do,” Routh told the AP.

In the months leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Jensen repeatedly replied to tweets by Trump, who has since been permanently suspended from the platform due to the company’s concern over the “risk of further incitement of violence."

“I’m ready for 4 more years!!! I will do whatever it takes,” Jensen tweeted in reference to Trump on Nov. 12 of last year.

On Christmas Day, he replied to a tweet from the @realDonaldTrump account, writing, “[w]e are ready. I have tried to prepare all my close friends and family.”

University of Northern Iowa political scientist Evan Renfro says he was horrified by the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, which forced lawmakers into hiding for hours, temporarily stalled the certification of the electoral victory of President-elect Joe Biden, and resulted in the deaths of five people. That the images and actions of a fellow Iowan should become so notorious serves as a reminder, Renfro said, that “these are folks that could be your neighbor."

“That this person was willing to be the barbarian not only at the gate, but the barbarian that went through the gate! And it really is a sad and dreadful time in this country, though not surprising,” Renfro said. “Something must be done.”

Renfro says the actions of individual rioters are disturbing, and further reporting and video evidence is demonstrating the extent of the violence they carried out, but he says the individuals are representative of a much larger crisis.

“[Jensen] is a mere foot soldier in a greater…almost diabolical labyrinth that this country, one of its great political parties, has set for itself,” Renfro said. “A whole political party that has been poisoned in order to accept a alternate reality, whether it’s QAnon or white supremacist philosophies or ‘you’ve been lied to’ and ‘the Democratic Party is against the people.'"

More than individual rioters, Renfro says he’s alarmed by Republican elected officials who echoed President Trump’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud, saying he finds Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri “much more astronomically dangerous."

Hawley and Cruz were among the lawmakers to formally object to election results, echoing Trump’s unfounded allegations, the same allegations which drove his supporters to the rally in Washington that day.

Since the attack, Republican officials in Iowa have condemned the violence at the Capitol, even as some of them continue to allege election fraud without evidence.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter