The scenes of the outbreak of violence from the US Capitol are burned into American memory. Several police officers have now reported on the violence and fear of death they suffered.
Beatings, kicks, fear of death: at the first hearing of the committee of inquiry into the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, several police officers vividly described their experiences of that brutal attack. One of the officials, Aquilino Gonell, said at the House Committee meeting on Tuesday that he thought he was going to die that January day.
He described the outbreak of violence “like something out of a medieval battle”. The officers had to use their hands to defend themselves centimeter by centimeter against the violent mob. He and his colleagues were beaten and kicked, maltreated with hammers and sticks, and chemicals sprayed.
Five people were killed
Supporters of the then US President Donald Trump stormed the seat of the US Congress in Washington on January 6th. Five people were killed, including a police officer. The unprecedented attack on the heart of American democracy caused a shock, both nationally and internationally.
Trump had to face impeachment proceedings for the attack because he had previously incited his supporters in a speech. At the end of the trial, however, the Republican was acquitted. The committee in Congress is supposed to investigate the background to the attack.
“Still trying to recover from it”
Gonell reported at the hearing that he had previously served in the US military in the Iraq war. But on January 6th he was more afraid than during his entire Iraq mission. He sustained various physical injuries in the attack on the Capitol and is still being treated. “More than six months later, I am still trying to recover from my injuries,” said the Capitol Police officer, who came to tears several times during his testimony.
Capitol policeman Aquilino Gonell in Congress: The attack caused him lasting trauma. (Source: MediaPunch / imago images)
In addition, there is the emotional burden. “For most people, January 6th took a couple of hours, but for those of us who were in the thick of it, it never stopped.” The attack caused lasting trauma.
Police officers were beaten bloody with flagpoles
Policeman Michael Fanone said at the meeting that he was packed, beaten, stuned with a stun gun and cursed as a traitor at the same time. At that moment he thought that there was a high probability “that I would be torn apart or shot with my own weapon,” said the police officer in the capital. “I thought of my four daughters who might lose their father.”
Capitol Policeman Harry Dunn in Congress: He was insulted several times with the N-word. (Source: ZUMA WIre / imago images)
The black officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police also described how the attackers used all kinds of weapons – including flagpoles or parts of metal bicycle stands – against police officers and beat them bloody. He himself had been insulted several times with the N-word. This had never happened to him in a uniform in the Capitol Police Department. The term “N-word” is used today to describe a racist term used for black people.
He formulated an order for the MPs: They should find out whether someone powerful played a role in the storm. “If a hit man is hired and kills someone, he goes to jail, but so does the person who sent him,” said Dunn.
“You were ready for a fight”
“These rioters were organized. They were ready for a fight. And they were on the verge of being successful,” said committee chairman and Democratic MP Bennie Thompson. During the hearing, video material from the scenes of violence at the Capitol was shown several times, including from the police officers’ body cameras.
The establishment of the committee of inquiry has been the subject of heated political controversy between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans had opposed the establishment of such a body, arguing that there was enough processing of the attack elsewhere. You accused the Democrats of pursuing party-political motives in the investigation.
Pelosi brought Trump-critical Republicans into the body
In May, the Republicans in the Senate initially prevented the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the attack. The Democrats then decided to set up an investigative body in the House of Representatives on their own, where they have a majority.
The Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, angered the Republican leadership by bringing two Republican MPs – namely proven Trump critics – to the committee and at the same time refusing two Republican MPs loyal to Trump a seat on the committee.