By Reena Bhardwaj
Washington DC [US], July 28 (ANI): The US House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot held its first hearing on Tuesday, with emotional testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the building that day.
The police personnel recounted the physical and verbal assaults they faced by pro-Trump rioters who were trying to stop the certification of the presidential election, which Donald Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Each one testified that they were beaten as the mob of Donald Trump supporters overwhelmed them, broke through windows and doors. Officers testified with emotion that they felt they might be killed. And they rebuked Republican lawmakers for resisting the investigation and playing down the violence of the mob.
Wiping away tears, an officer of the capitol police said he could feel himself losing oxygen as he was crushed by rioters as he was defending the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection. "This is how I am going to die," Aquilino Gonell told a Congressional committee as an inquiry opened.
Gonell said he was beaten with a flagpole and soaked with chemical spray. As a result of his injuries, he said he had surgery on his right foot and would need surgery on his left shoulder and further rehab for possibly more than a year.
DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone said he was "tortured" on January 6, dragged alone into the crowd, tased and beaten with fists and metal objects. Fanone in his testimony said he feared for his life and pleaded with the mob, telling them, "I have kids." He said he heard the crowd chant, "Kill him with his own gun," and said, "I can still hear those words in my head today." He added that he continues to deal with trauma, and so do his children, after nearly losing their father.
Further in his testimony, Fanone criticised people who have downplayed the attacks. He slammed his fist on the desk and shouted, "The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful."
Capitol Police officer, Harry Dunn, who is black, said he was racially abused. Dunn said that during the siege, while in conversation with a rioter, he volunteered that he'd voted for Joe Biden. A crowd of about 20 people then surrounded him, he said, screaming and calling him the n-word.
An emotional Dunn urged the committee to "get to the bottom of what happened," and compared the events of January 6 to a murder carried out by a "hitman."
"If a hitman is hired and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail," he said. "But not only does the hitman go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on January 6, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that."Another officer, DC Metropolitan Police officer Daniel Hodges, called the frontlines of the attack "a meat grinder". Hodges said he was screaming in pain as a mob of rioters crushed him in a doorway and pressed toward a Capitol entrance.
He recounted that as his head was being "bashed" by a rioter, he feared that "at best" he might collapse and become a liability to his colleagues. "At worst," he added, "be dragged down into the crowd and lynched."
Lawmakers on the panel lauded the officers' heroism and blasted colleagues who have denied the events of that day.
At least 535 rioters have been arrested since the attack that left five dead, including one police officer. The inquiry in the House Select committee is being conducted almost entirely by Democrats, after most Republicans boycotted the proceedings.
However, two Republicans - Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger - have broken ranks to join the investigation. "If those responsible are not held accountable... this will remain cancer on our constitutional republic," Cheney said as the hearing began on Tuesday. (ANI)