In searing testimony before the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol on Tuesday, four police officers who defended the Capitol building against thousands of pro-Trump insurrectionists not only discussed the horrors they endured that day as they tried to hold the line against a vast mob of Trump supporters, but also drew conclusions from what they saw and endured. Two of the officers said that the gear and tactics used by some attackers suggested backgrounds in either law-enforcement or the military. The officers also said the siege of the Capitol appeared to be a planned event carried out by members of a number of far-right and hard-right groups, as judged by their patches and insignia.
It’s what we at Right Wing Watch have been saying for a while, casting a bright light on the multiple organized gatherings rife with violent rhetoric that were convened in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols throughout the country in the months that led up to the attack on the Capitol.
White nationalism in the halls of power
Officer Daniel Hodges, a white member of the Metropolitan Police Dept. who was tortured by the insurgent mob as its members wedged him into a door frame and squeezed the door on him, doubled down on comments he gave to NBC10, a Philadelphia television station, just days after the insurrection. “It was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection,” he said on Jan. 16.
Asked about that description at Tuesday’s hearing, Hodges said that while he heard racial epithets hurled at Black officers during the melee, some in the crowd urged Hodges to join their side. “Are you my brother?” one insurrectionist asked the officer, according to Hodges’ testimony, excerpted below:
The crowd was overwhelmingly white males, usually a little bit older, middle-aged older, but some younger … They didn’t say anything especially xenophobic to me, but [they did] to my Black colleagues and anyone who’s not white. And some of them would try to recruit me. One of them came up to me and said, “Are you my brother?” There are many known organizations with ties to white supremacy who had a presence there, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, that kind of thing. And people who associate with Donald Trump I find more likely to subscribe to that belief system.
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who is African American, and Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, of Dominican descent, recounted being taunted with racial epithets. Dunn said that he had never before had the experience of being called the N-word while in uniform, but that on Jan. 6, people in the mob did so repeatedly. Gonell said his skin color was noted by some who said he wasn’t really an American, anyway.
“It was a war that we fought, and a war is composed of a bunch of different battles, and everybody even sitting at this table fought a different battle that day, but it was all for the same war,” Dunn said, “As Black officers, I believe we fought a different battle, also.”
Michael Fanone, a white MPD officer who was beaten by the insurrectionists and consequently suffered a heart attack, concurred with his colleagues. In his testimony, Fanone, who speaks with a distinctly Southern accent, referenced former President Donald Trump’s final so-called Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C. (There were two in November, two in December and two in January.) From Fanone’s testimony (links added by RWW):
A lot of the events of January 6th and the days preceding—I guess it’s interesting from a law-enforcement perspective as a police officer—a lot of these events happen in plain sight. We had violent political rhetoric. We had the organization of a rally whose title was Stop The Steal, and that that rally occurred on January 6th—which I don’t believe was a coincidence that on January 6th members of Congress, you here in the room today, were charged with tallying the electoral votes and certifying the election of our president.
And in the academy, we learn about time, place, and circumstance in investigating potential crimes, and those who may have committed them. And so the time, the place, and the circumstances of that rally, that rhetoric, and those events to me leads in the direction of our [former] president and other members, not only of Congress, but the Senate. But that is what I’m looking for, is an investigation into those actions and activities, which may have resulted in the events of January 6th. And also whether or not there was collaboration between those members, their staff, and these terrorists.
Blue against blue
Testimony by three of the officers corroborated reports (including ours) that active and former law-enforcement officers were represented among the marauding crowd.
“To my perpetual confusion, I saw the Thin Blue Line flag—the 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 told the lawmakers.
Gonell offered this note: “Based on the coordinated attacks that we observed and the verbal commands we heard, it appears that many of these attackers had law enforcement or military experience,” he said.
Read the Right Wing Watch report, “The Cops Who Joined in the Insurrection: Racism, Authoritarianism and Violence“
Dunn, while defending the West terrace of the Capitol, had a close-up encounter with an insurrectionist who presented himself as a law-enforcement officer, Dunn said. “At the top of the stairs, I confronted a group of insurrectionists, warning them, ‘Do not go down those steps,’” Dunn said. “One of them shouted, ‘Keep moving, patriots.’ Another displayed what looked like a law enforcement badge and told me, ‘We’re doing this for you.’”
Gaslighting and denialism
The officers who appeared before the Select Committee decried the gaslighting and denialism in which many Republican officials and members of Congress have engaged with regard to the insurrection. Indeed, they seemed incredulous that they are being portrayed as traitors by some on the right after they took life-threatening blows—from pipes, flag poles, bats, and shields stolen from cops—in defense of the Capitol and the Constitution.
“They were calling us traitors, even though they were the ones who were committing the treasonous act that day,” Gonell told the committee. “It is devastating and demoralizing for people, whoever’s party it is, to call this attack—to continue to minimize it like nothing happened. It was an attempted coup that was happening at the Capitol that day, and if it had been in another country, the U.S. would have had sent help.”
Each of the cops called on Congress to get to the root of the matter, which is the role played former President Donald Trump and his aides in fomenting the violence with the false claim that Democrat Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election, as well as the under-resourcing of Capitol Police in the face of intelligence that warned of violence on Jan. 6, the day that Congress was scheduled to certify the Electoral Votes and Biden’s win. “This was his monstrosity,” Gonell said of Trump.
Dunn also expressed frustration with the gaslighting argument used by the Republican leadership that they won’t participate in any investigation because any such examination will be politicized by the Democrats.
“There’s been a sentiment that’s going around that says everybody’s trying to make January 6th political,” Dunn said. “Well, it’s not a secret that it was political. They literally were there to ‘stop the steal.’ So when people say it shouldn’t be political, it is. It was, and it is. There’s no getting around that.
“Telling the truth shouldn’t be hard,” Dunn continued. “Fighting on January 6th, that was hard.”