Anybody doubting the racist motivations behind the Jan. 6 insurrection hasn’t heard from U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn.
He was among four police officers who testified Tuesday morning as the congressional committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol convened with a hearing to formally kick off its probe to determine why the riot took place and how to prevent something like that from ever happening again.
Dunn, who is Black, offered moving testimony about his experience responding to the Capitol rioters. He described it as being largely racist in nature. He testified that “no one had ever, ever called me ni**er while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police Officer” until Jan. 6.
The irony, of course, is that the Capitol rioters — fueled by the “big lie” that Donald Trump was the victim of election fraud endorsed by Democrats — have repeatedly been revealed to be pro-police. However, the scenario that Dunn described was anything but friendly, inadvertently validating the “Black lives matter” rallying call that they so vehemently oppose.
Dunn said as much without using those exact words.
“Until then I had never seen anyone physically assault Capitol police or MPD, let alone witness mass assaults being perpetrated on law enforcement officers,” Dunn testified.
Dunn added later: “I told them to just leave the Capitol, and in response they yelled, ‘no man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We’re here to stop the steal.’”
Dunn said those responses included racial slurs.
Dunn testified that the experience compelled him to pull aside another Black officer with the U.S. Capitol Police in disbelief.
“I sat down on a bench in the rotunda with a friend of mine who is also a black Capitol police officer and told him about the racial slurs I endured,” Dunn said. “I became very emotional and began yelling, ‘how the blank could something like this happen. Is this America?’”
Dunn summed it all up neatly: “It was just so overwhelming and so disheartening and disappointing that we live in a country with people like that.”
Later, California Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat, asked Dunn to expound on the racist elements during his response to the Capitol rioters. “Is this America?” Schiff asked Dunn.
“The fact that we had our race attacked and just because of the way we look, you know … To answer your question, frankly, I guess it is America,” Dunn responded. “It shouldn’t be, but I guess that’s the way that things are.”
Comparing Jan. 6 to a “war,” Dunn added to his answer.
“So I guess it sounds silly, but I guess it is American … but it’s not the … it’s not the side of America that I like. It’s not the side that any of us here represent,” Dunn told Schiff. “We represent the good side of America, the people who actually believe in decency.”
At another point, Dunn said it didn’t immediately dawn on him that he had been the victim of a racist attack. But the more he thought about it, the more he said he realized that “people demonize you because of the color of your skin.”
Dunn joined his fellow officer with the U.S. Capitol Police Department, Aquilino Gonell, along with D.C. police officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges to testify on Tuesday.
Both Capitol police officers testified about the lasting mental health implications they’ve had to work through since Jan. 6, with Dunn questioning “whether they are sufficient to meet our needs, especially with respect to the amount of leave we are allowed.”
The testimony followed the opening remarks from Jan. 6 Commission Chairman Bennie Thompson explained how he planned to conduct the committee.
“We are going to be guided solely by the facts,” Thompson said at the outset to address the distorted lens through which the insurrection has been viewed by supporters of Trump.
Thompson went on to establish those same “facts,” including how the “men and women who stormed the Capitol wanted to derail the peaceful transfer of power in this country” and “that seven people lost their lives, that more than 140 police officers suffered injuries.”
After showing a video that served as further evidence of the Capitol riot, Thompson said it’s now time “to figure out how to fix the damage” to help “understand how and why the Big Lie festered.”
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a centrist Republican who was named to the Jan. 6 committee, seemed to be speaking directly to her fellow Republicans when addressing the consequences of downplaying the insurrection as anything but a violent attack against American democracy.
Cheney later added in no uncertain terms: “On January 6th and in the days thereafter, almost all members of my party recognized the events of that day for what they actually were … no member of Congress should not attempt to defend the indefensible.”
Outside of the hearing, right-wing conservative members of Congress like House GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik — one of the Republicans who has repeatedly upheld Donald Trump’s big lie that he was the victim of election fraud — were still spreading lies about Jan. 6. Stefanik on Tuesday inexplicably blamed Pelosi for the insurrection.
Yes, this is America.
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