6 Jan hearing: Officers recount racist attacks

Four officers described the egregious racist slurs during the 6 January Capitol insurrections by the rioters, vindicating that the incident transcended Joe Biden’s triumph over Donald Trump.

Two from the US Capitol police and the rest from the DC’s Metropolitan Police Department delineated the racism and bigotry they had to combat besides the makeshift weapons, stun guns and fists.

Their direct, harrowing accounts laid out the hours when the pro-police sentiment of supporters of former President Donald Trump was pushed aside, consumed by the fury of wanting to keep him in the White House.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told lawmakers about an exchange he had with rioters, who disputed that President Joe Biden defeated Trump in the last presidential election. When Dunn, who is Black, argued with the rioters that he voted for Biden and that his vote should be counted, a crowd began hurling the N-word at him. He recalled a woman in pink ‘MAGA’ (Make America Great Again) shirt yelling the profanity at him.

Then the crowd joined the abhorrent refrain, screaming it as Dunn said in his more than a dozen years of service no one had abused him with that word.

That night, he sat in the Capitol Rotunda and wept.

Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a member of the panel, said the Capitol and DC officers would provide insight into “what it was like to be on the front lines.”

Dunn said another Black male officer told him that, while confronting the rioters he was hurled the same profanities.

The panel’s chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, pressed Dunn further about how he felt being an African American officer facing down racists and enduring racial slurs in the halls of democracy.

“It’s just so disheartening that people like that will attack you just for the colour of your skin,” Dunn replied. “Once I was able to process it, it hurt. My blood is red. I’m an American citizen. I’m a police officer. I’m a peace officer.”

Another Capitol Police officer, Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, wiped away tears as he recalled the story of his immigration to the US from the Dominican Republic, only to face fellow Americans who considered him a traitor for defending the Capitol on the fateful day.

“It was very disappointing,” Gonell said. “I saw many officers fighting for their lives against people, rioters (and) citizens, turning against us.”

Gonell, an Iraq War veteran, also called out the disparate law enforcement response to the overwhelmingly white crowd of rioters and the response to racial justice protests in 2020 that followed the murder of George Floyd and the police involved deaths of other Black Americans.

“As America and the world watched in horror what was happening to us at the Capitol, we did not receive timely reinforcements and support we needed,” he said. “In contrast, during the Black Lives Matter protest last year, US Capitol Police had all the support we needed and more. Why the different response?”

In January, as images and video emerged from the attacks on the Capitol, a racist and anti-Semitic element among the rioters became apparent. One man was pictured inside of the Capitol building carrying a Confederate battle flag.

And in the nearly seven months since the attacks, more video investigations revealed several rioters had flashed white supremacist gang signs and “white power” hand signals during the insurrection.

Gonell also called out the hypocrisy he perceived from many of the rioters who profess to support law enforcement.

“There are some who expressed outrage when someone simply kneeled for social justice during the national anthem,” Dunn said. “Where are those same people expressing outrage to condemn the violent attack on law enforcement officers, the US Capitol, and our American democracy?”

“I’m still waiting for that,” he said.

https://www.thestatesman.com/world/6-jan-hearing-officers-recount-racist-attacks-1502987096.html

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