Police with guns drawn watch as insurrectionists try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday

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When pro-Trump agitators broke into the United States Capitol Building on Wednesday afternoon, CNN called on a former Philadelphia police commissioner to contextualize the event.

“This is as close to a coup attempt as this country has ever seen,” Charles Ramsey told Jake Tapper, a CNN anchor who grew up in Philly.

Ramsey served as Philly’s top cop from 2008 to 2016 — the longest tenure for a Philly police commander in three decades. Two years ago, he was tapped by Pa. Governor Tom Wolf to help with statewide anti-gun violence efforts. Before he came to Philly, Ramsey worked as the chief of the Metropolitan Police Force in D.C.

Nothing he oversaw during his tenure in Washington matched what was happening on the afternoon of Jan. 6.

Egged on by incumbent President Donald Trump, who has refused to admit defeat and never acknowledged he would recognize a peaceful transfer of power, hundreds of people stormed the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

Their ostensible goal: to stop Congress from meeting to approve the Electoral College vote of 306 to 232 for President-elect Joe Biden. A total of 270 votes are needed to win the presidency.

Insurrectionists broke windows and scaled the side of the building to get inside. Members of the House and Senate, plus political reporters, were evacuated, while agitators instigated an armed standoff and obtained entry into the chambers.

Watching the scene unfold Wednesday, Ramsey called the happenings “unprecedented,” and blamed Trump for instigating: “What I’d want the president to do is shut the hell up and get out of the way. The guy is like a cancer.”

Ramsey’s been tapped for national political work before. In 2014, former President Barack Obama selected Ramsey to co-chair his Task Force on 21st Century Policing. CNN hired him three years later to be a contributor.

In Philadelphia, Ramsey was known for his tough-on-crime mantra. When then-Mayor Nutter promised to declare crime emergencies in certain circumstances — which would allow for curfews, stop and frisk and increased police presence — Ramsey delivered.

During his stint in the city, Ramsey saw noticeable change. Under his policing, Philadelphia saw a 37 percent decline in the murder rate — from 391 homicides in 2007 to 248 in 2014. That latter was the lowest recorded since 1967.

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Michaela Winberg

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...