A Capitol Police sergeant has spoken out, saying that it was a “total disgrace” that attendees at a rally for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate recited the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag purportedly carried during the January 6th insurrection.
Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who defended the Capitol during the insurrection, spoke to CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday, telling the anchor that rioters attacked him with a flag pole and chemicals. “That flag that they’re probably holding right now,” Gonnell said, referring to the flag rally-goers pledged their allegiance to, “That probably was the flag that they hit me with.”
Sgt Gonell: That flag that they’re probably holding right now, that they did that ceremony, that probably was the flag that they hit me with pic.twitter.com/4LPtTpLYlg
— Acyn (@Acyn) October 16, 2021
The pledge took place on Wednesday at a “Take Back Virginia Rally” hosted by close Trump ally Steve Bannon. The rally was in support of Republican Glenn Youngkin, who is running against former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Youngkin, who did not attend the event, tried to distance himself from the rally and said in a statement that the pledge to that flag was “weird and wrong.”
Gonnell also pointed out how on the day of the insurrection, rioters didn’t seem to be as respectful of the flag as they claim to be. “When I was fighting those people off,” he said, “they were throwing the flag on the floor and then they wanted us to pick it up, and they got angry about it.”
Gonnell said that he still deals with the lingering effects that day had on him physically and mentally. “When you hear the former vice president saying that [was just] one day in January, well, I’m still living through that one day and still counting,” he said. “My injury has not gone away because that [was] one day in January,” he said. “So all those people that are trying to play it off and diminish the danger that we encountered that day — not only to ourselves but to our democracy and our government — it’s very challenging for us.”
Speaking on Saturday at a tribute to fallen law enforcement officers and those who defended the Capitol, President Joe Biden acknowledged the sacrifices officers made that day, saying, “because of you, democracy survived.”
“Nine months ago, your brothers and sisters thwarted an unconstitutional and fundamentally un-American attack on our nation’s values and our votes. Because of you, democracy survived,” Biden said. “Because of these men and women, we avoided a catastrophe, but their heroism came at a cost to you and your families.”
Gonnell knows that cost all too well.