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Police testify to US Capitol riot probe

AFP/Washington

Tuesday، 27 July 2021 11:48 PM

Wiping away tears, a police officer told a rapt US congressional hearing yesterday he believed “this is how I’m going to die” while defending the Capitol on January 6 against a rampaging mob branding him a traitor.
Another recalled how he was beaten unconscious by rioters supportive of then-president Donald Trump for protecting US lawmakers and the citadel of American democracy.
The gripping accounts served as opening testimony in a landmark hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, which opened with hair-raising videos of the deadly attack.
But it was the dramatic personal recollections of officers under siege by people they described as “terrorists” that set the tone in a closely-watched session.
It was “something from a medieval battle,” Capitol Police sergeant Aquilino Gonell, an immigrant US Army Iraq combat veteran, told the panel, describing how he and colleagues “fought hand to hand, inch by inch, to prevent an invasion” of the building.
“My fellow officers and I were punched, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants and even blinded by eye-damaging lasers by a violent mobs who apparently saw us...as an impediment to their attempted uprising,” Gonell told stunned committee members.
“This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance,” he recalled telling himself.
Six months after hundreds of Trump’s supporters conducted the worst assault on the Capitol building since the war of 1812, the work of the committee has become a major political flashpoint.
“A violent mob was pointed toward the Capitol and told to win a trial by combat. Some descended on this city with clear plans to disrupt our democracy,” the panel’s Democratic chairman, Bennie Thompson, said in an opening statement.
“We know there is evidence of a coordinated planned attack. We know that the men and women who stormed the Capitol wanted to derail the peaceful transfer of power in this country.”
Thompson vowed the committee would be “guided solely by the facts,” adding “there’s no place for politics or partisanship in this investigation.”
Rioters, fuelled by an aggressive Trump rally in Washington earlier that day, fought their way into the Capitol, hunted for the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” and sought to block certification of Joe Biden’s November presidential election victory.
US Capitol police officer Harry Dunn recalled the racial epithets hurled at him and other police by rioters, many of whom were associated with ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups. Washington DC Metropolitan Police department officer Michael Fanone said he was called “traitor” by rioters who beat and tasered him unconscious, and threatened to murder him with his own firearm.
“Nowhere in my wildest imagination did I ever expect to be in that situation,” said Fanone, who suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury during the attack.
“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” Fanone said, banging loudly on the table.
The fiery remark was clearly aimed at Republican leaders and rank-and-file members who have essentially boycotted the committee and downplayed the events of January 6.
Five people died during or shortly after the violence, while dozens of police were injured.

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