A Capitol Police Officer Slammed His Fist on the Table While Addressing January 6-Denying Congressmen

·5 min read
Photo credit: CHIP SOMODEVILLA - Getty Images
Photo credit: CHIP SOMODEVILLA - Getty Images

Every new video from the Capitol attack on January 6 offers new horrors. The footage that played on Tuesday to kick off the first hearing of the House commission tasked with investigating those events was no exception. There were clips that showed the savagery of the hand-to-hand combat, but there were also audio clips of officers frantically signaling over their radios how perilous the situation had become. And there were also clips from the rioters' radio channels on Zello that made a strong case that for some section of the crowd, there was nothing spontaneous about what happened. "Hey brother, we're boots on the ground here, we're moving on the Capitol now," one suspect said. "OK guys," said another later on, "apparently the tip of the spear has entered the Capitol Building." Towards the end of the video, there were some explicit threats of violence against public officials, and not just Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. "They've got the gallows set up outside the Capitol Building," someone said over Zello. "It's time to start fucking using them."

And then the officers testified. One by one, four members of the Capitol Police who fought to defend the building, and the members of Congress in the process of certifying the election results inside, told their stories from that day. Sergeant Aquilino Gonell described the scene as a "medieval battle" in which they were besieged by people yelling, "Trump sent us." He recalled thinking that this is how he was going to die. When he finally returned home at the end of the day, he pushed his wife away when she tried to hug him because his uniform was covered in toxic chemicals sprayed by his assailants. Those were activated on his skin when he took a shower, and he barely slept that night.

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Then there was Officer Michael Fanone, who said he suffered a concussion and a heart attack that day. Later, he'd be diagnosed with PTSD. He described hearing members of the crowd calling for him to be murdered with his own gun. He was electrocuted again and again with his own taser. He appealed to his assailants by yelling, over and over, that he had children. And then he expressed absolute disgust at the idea the very members of Congress he'd risked his life to protect were now downplaying or outright denying what happened that day. He did so with a slam of his fist on the table.

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The abject cowardice and complicity of nearly the entire Republican caucus outside Liz Cheney and a few others is almost difficult to comprehend. These officers fought and nearly died to protect them and, after a few days and weeks of acknowledging what had just happened in reality, have now shifted towards downplaying, denying, or attempting to scramble up the full accounting of what happened that day. All because they think it will pay political dividends somehow. All because they cannot imagine a world where they are not completely beholden to a deranged narcissist—the same one who fueled this national disgrace—for their continuing power and influence.

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Next was Officer Daniel Hodges, who offered an almost literary narrative of events. Maybe the adrenaline rushing through him in the moment caused him to record such specific, visceral memories of the sights and smells to which he was subjected. He spoke of being attacked by people waving Thin Blue Line police flags, a stunning showcase of what the Blue Lives Matter crowd is really about. He spoke with a haunting elegance about nearly being crushed to death against a Capitol door. But the biggest revelation from his testimony was his account of how some men in military gear with radios approached his colleague before things even kicked off:

"Is this all the manpower you have?" the man asked. "Do you really think you're going to be able to stop all these people?"

Another data point to suggest that some in the crowd had a very clear idea of how things would play out.

And finally, there was Officer Harry Dunn:

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For years now, we've been subjected to these altogether silly discussions of whether there's a racial dimension to the most enthusiastic quarters of Donald Trump's support, and of the far-right in general. It was just a coincidence that nearly everyone who showed up to the rallies had a certain complexion, and that a similar theme played out on January 6, where people showed up with Trump flags and Gadsden flags and Thin Blue Line flags and, of course, American flags. But the vision of that America in this group was not one that included Officer Harry Dunn, or at least not one in which Dunn had the full rights of citizenship and thus ought to have as much say in who wields power in this polity as any one member of the crowd. It's a reminder that at the root of things, all this is not about a stolen election. The feeling among Trump's most devoted supporters is that the country was stolen—hence the "SAVE AMERICA" tour—and the whole universe of election conspiracies is just window dressing. Joe Biden cannot be the president, therefore he was elected illegitimately, and here's some slapdick evidence for that while we pursue our actual aim: keeping hold of power by force.

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