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US Capitol riot: House panel on January 6 begins probe

July 27, 2021

Police officers who defended the building on the day have told the Democrat-majority panel that the "horrific" attack was akin to a "medieval battlefield."

Trump supporters storm US Capitol on January 6
Many of the rioters were supporters of former President Donald TrumpImage: Julio Cortez/AP Photo/picture alliance

A special congressional panel dedicated to investigating the attack on the US Capitol on January 6 held its first hearings on Tuesday.

The Select Committee on the January 6th Insurrection heard from four police officers who defended the building from the rioters. 

What did the officers say in their testimony?

Officer Aquilino Gonell said he and other police experienced "horrific and devastating" physical violence during the riot. 

"What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battlefield," Gonell said in somber remarks. "We fought hand-to-hand and inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process." 

Officer Michael Fanone said he was beaten and tased during the Capitol breach. He said he heard rioters say "kill him with his own gun." 

He called the event "horrific" and said he and his family are dealing with "psychological trauma." He expressed visceral anger for those who downplayed the riots.

"Being an officer you know your life is at risk whenever you walk out of the door, even if you don't expect otherwise law-abiding citizens to take up arms against you," Fanone said.

"But nothing — truly nothing — has addressed the elected members of our government that continue to deny the events of that day, and in doing so, betray their oath of office. Those very members whose lives, offices, staff members, I was fighting so desperately to defend," he added.

Another Washington D.C. officer, Daniel Hodges, referred to the rioters as "terrorists" and said they are in a "cult." 

Hodges said he was attacked with own gas mask during the riot. 

"Directly in front of me, a man seized the opportunity of my vulnerability to grab the front of my gas mask and used it to beat my head against the door," Hodges recalled.

US Capitol officer Harry Dunn, an African-American, said he was met with racial slurs from the rioters.

“No one had ever, ever called me [that] while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer," Dunn said.

"We can never again let our democracy be put in peril, as it was on January 6," he added.

Officer blames Trump during questioning

After the officers gave their testimonies, they were questioned by lawmakers during the hearing. 

Republican panel member Liz Cheney of Wyoming asked Gonell how it feels to hear former President Donald Trump call the mob a "loving crowd." 

Gonell said Trump's remarks are "upsetting" and added that "it's a pathetic excuse for his behavior, for something that he himself helped create."

Some observers believe former President Donald Trump incited the rioters due to his false allegations that the 2020 election was rigged against him. Trump held a rally close to the Capitol before the riot, and urged supporters to "stop the steal" of the election.

"It was not Antifa, it was not Black Lives [Matter], it was not the FBI; it was his supporters that he sent them over to the Capitol that day," Gonell said, referring to Trump.

He referred to the riots as an "attempted coup."

Fanone said "certain members of the government" incited the breach.

Panel member Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, called the rioters "fascist traitors."

What did panel members say in opening remarks?

The chairman of the panel, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, said the rioters had "clear plans to disrupt democracy" in his opening remarks during the hearing.

The panel displayed a video showing new footage of the rioters on January 6.

"We must know what happened here at the Capitol," Cheney said.

"We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House. Every phone call. Every conversation. Every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack," she added. 

Cheney said if the rioters are not held accountable "this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic."

January 6 probe faces partisan backlash

The Democratic-majority committee is highly politicized.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republicans nominated to the panel that were chosen by Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

In response to the move by Pelosi, McCarthy pulled his other three nominees in protest and labeled the committee a "sham." 

Two anti-Trump Republicans, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, were selected by Pelosi for the panel.

In regards to the probe into the riots, Kinzinger said Tuesday that members of his party have "treated this as just another partisan fight."

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik gave a speech before the hearing and blamed Pelosi for the riots.

wd/rt (AP, AFP)

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