Bill O’Leary/Pool/The Washington Post/AP
Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, vowed to the officers who testified that they would get answers about what happened during the insurrection.
“You carried out your duties at tremendous risk. Now we on this committee have a duty. However, a far less dangerous one, but an essential one – to get to the bottom of what happened that day,” he said in the hearing’s closing remarks. “We cannot allow what happened on Jan. 6 to happen again. We owe it to you and your colleagues and we will not fail, I assure you, in that responsibility.”
The high-profile committee’s first hearing was filled with emotional moments and first-hand accounts of the violence on the Capitol that day. Lawmakers heard accounts from four officers that defended the building on Jan. 6 — DC Metropolitan Police Officers Daniel Hodges and Michael Fanone and Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell.
Here are some top moments and themes that played out during today’s hearing:
Duty to protect and serve: A common theme among the four officers was that they were there to protect lawmakers and the public, regardless of political affiliation.
“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” Fanone told lawmakers.
Gonell called the attack on the Capitol an “attempted coup.”
But, the violence is not the side of America these officers represent, Dunn said. “We represent the good side of America, the people that actually believe in decency, human decency, and we appeal to just the good in people, and that’s what we want to see,” the officer added.
Incidents of racism: Dunn said that he was subjected to racial slurs when he confronted rioters who had breached the building. In the heat of the moment, Dunn told the rioters that he voted for Joe Biden.
He said at that point, one woman in pink yelled, “did you hear that, guys, that [N-word] voted for Joe Biden.” He said that others joined in and yelled remarks like, “Boo! F**king [N-word].”
Gonell noted that some rioters said he wasn’t American because of his race.
Hodges, who is White, testified that he heard the rioters making these remarks to other colleagues who were not White. Hodges said that some tried to recruit him to their cause, “Some of them would try to recruit me. One came and said, ‘Are you my brother?'”
First-hand accounts of violence: Hodges said he was beaten with his own gas mask on Jan. 6. At one point, with his arms pinned and trapped between a shield and door frame, Hodges said a rioter bashed his head with a huge mob behind him.
Hodges also provided other examples of violence that he witnessed first-hand, including one officer who broke his finger so badly, that he had to have the tip of it removed, another who was shocked with a cattle prod, and an officer who was hit so hard in the head, he is still on medical leave.
Fanone also described his experience on Jan. 6 and walked lawmakers through the violent footage captured on his body camera that shows rioters attacking him. “But yet they tortured me. They beat me. I was struck with a taser device at the base of my skull numerous times. And they continued to do so, until I yelled out that I have kids,” the officer said.
Republicans call out their own party: GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said the committee’s investigation must be nonpartisan and finding the facts must “arise above politics.” Cheney said Republicans recognized “the events of that day for what they actually were,” saying that one of her colleagues called the insurrection “unacceptable and un-American.” Now, no member of Congress should defend the “indefensible,” she added.
The only other Republican lawmaker on the committee, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois called out other members of his party, saying “we need to reject those that promote” conspiracies about the insurrection. He said he is frustrated that there are still not a lot of answers about what happened that day, saying it is because Republicans have “treated this as just another partisan fight.”