On the first day of the House select committee investigation into the January 6th insurrection, officers from the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department who responded that day gave harrowing testimony about the abuse they endured at the hands of an angry mob of Trump supporters.
“That day continues to be a constant trauma for us, literally every day,” Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, who suffered severe injuries and has been on leave for most of the months following the insurrection, told the committee on Tuesday.
D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges recalled a tense moment when an insurrectionist told him, “You will die on your knees.”
Hodges also testified to his bewilderment at seeing insurrectionists carrying flags with symbols indicating support of police officers. “My perpetual confusion, I saw the thin blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us,” Hodges said.
Another witness, Officer Harry Dunn with the Capitol Police, testified that rioters called him a n***** after he told them he voted for Biden. “I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded: ‘Well I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?'” Dunn said.
He then said that a woman “in a pink MAGA shirt” yelled back, “You hear that guys? This n***** voted for Joe Biden.”
“No one had ever, ever called me a n***** while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer,” Dunn said.
Until January 6th, “no one had ever, ever called me ni**er while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police Officer.”
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) July 27, 2021
Dunn testified that officers were not forewarned by leadership about the levels of violence that would be present that day. “We were expecting civil disobedience as we do at the Capitol. At least that was what was relayed to us,” Dunn said, adding that they were told to expect “a couple arrests, name-calling, unfriendly people.”
“But nowhere near the level of violence or even close to it that we experienced,” he said.
Dunn went on to explain that he only heard about the violent plans through a friend who had texted him about it. “When I received the text message, it made the hairs on my neck rise, since our chain of command had not told us to prepare for these levels of violence,” Dunn told the committee.
Nine Democrats and two Republicans sit on the select committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appointments to the committee, Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, both of whom have continued to endorse Trump’s lie that the election was stolen and have opposed a full investigation of the Capitol attack. The representatives “made statements and took actions that just made it ridiculous to put them on such a committee seeking the truth,” Pelosi said when justifying her decision.
D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who has been an outspoken critic of Republican politicians attempting to minimize the attack, was the fourth witness to appear at Tuesday’s hearing. Fanone suffered multiple injuries that day at the hands of the insurrectionists, including a heart attack and traumatic brain injury. Rioters dragged him into the crowd, stole a munition off his body, and beat him with “their fists and hard metal objects” while also attacking him with a Taser. It was only when he yelled that he had children, he said, that the beatings stopped and other police officers managed to drag him out of the mob.
“I was electrocuted again and again and again,” he said. “I’m sure I was screaming, but I don’t think I could even hear my own voice.”
But many Republicans are trying to deny the truth and painting the riots as a peaceful protest. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) has said that the rioters were “people that love this country.” And Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) described the rioters’ behavior at the Capitol as a “normal tourist visit.” The officers’ testimony, however, proves those Republicans are very clearly wrong.
“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them, and too many in this room … are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or hell actually wasn’t that bad,” Fanone said, pounding his fist on the table. “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”
— PoliticsVideo23 (@politicsvideo23) July 27, 2021
Fanone continued, “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office.”
Sergeant Gonnell also criticized Republicans, saying they have tried “to whitewash the facts into something other than what they unmistakably reveal: an attack on our democracy by violent domestic extremists,” he said. What law enforcement officers are seeking, however, is “accountability and justice.”
Throughout his testimony, Officer Hodges of the D.C. police referred to the insurrection as an act of terrorism and the people who carried it out “terrorists.” Asked why he chose those words by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Hodges told the committee he had come prepared for the question. He then read, verbatim, the legal definitions of domestic terrorism from the U.S. code.
Finally, near the end of the hearing, Hodges spoke directly to the 11 members of the select committee. He and his colleagues had done their jobs on January 6th to great physical and mental harm. But it was now time, he said, for members of Congress to hold accountable those in power who might have aided or enabled the insurrection. “I need you guys to address if anyone in power had a role” in this “terrorist attack,” he said.