The Heroes of the January 6 Insurrection at the Capitol

6 mins read

As the events of Jan. 6 unfolded Americans were stunned by the images on their screens: U.S. Capitol Police officers seemingly in league with the rioters. Heroes did emerge among their ranks, like Officer Eugene Goodman, who steered Mitt Romney away from the mob and also diverted the rioters from the Senate chamber where VP Mike Pence and senators were waiting to be evacuated. But to the millions of Americans who were watching the chaos live, it appeared Capitol police had failed in their duty to protect the lawmakers, their family members and staff, as well as the custodians and other employees who worked in the Capitol complex. 

During the next few days many videos surfaced that gave a different view of the Capitol and Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police. We saw rioters beating officers with fire extinguishers and flagpoles with the American flags still attached. We learned of the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, whose heroism was acknowledged as he lay in state at the Capitol and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Fortunately, we also have the Capitol police telling us, in their own words, about their unsettling experiences:

Officer Daniel Hodges, who we saw screaming for help as he was brutally attacked while being crushed in between two doors said: “If it wasn’t my job I would have done that for free, it was absolutely my pleasure to crush a white nationalist insurrection and I’m glad I was in a position to help. We’ll do it as many times as it takes.”

Metropolitan Police Officer Christina Laury reported, “I don’t think we even understood the magnitude and the amount of people that were actually there, by the time I got there, officers were already getting, you know, sprayed with whatever these individuals had, which I believe they had bear mace, which is literally used for bears.”

Officer Michael Fanone told a Washington, D.C, television station, “I remember guys chanting, like, ‘Kill him with his own gun, I remember trying to retain it, and the thought did cross my mind like: OK, people are trying to kill you and I think this has crossed the threshold of you, you know, defending yourself. I thought about killing people.”

acting Washington Metropolitan police chief said, “I was stunned at the tepid response from the Department of the Army, which was reluctant to send the D.C. National Guard to the Capitol. While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception – the factors cited by the staff on the call – these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted.”

Acting Capitol police chief Yogananda Pittman, who took over when the police chief resigned after the riot, apologized to lawmakers: “The agency prepared, but we did not do enough,”

Many of the police officers who were there had a lot to say about what they experienced. Some of them preferred to remain anonymous.

”There was no planning. No pre-planning. I just don’t understand. For the life of me, why not have the same precautions as we did with other demonstrations? Our management was completely … nobody knew what the hell to do. Nobody was giving direction on what to do.”

“I feel betrayed, they didn’t even put us in a position to be successful.”

“It started like a normal day. It shouldn’t have started like a normal day. The thing that struck me was getting messages from coworkers saying, ‘How come the members keep saying watch your back, be careful, you guys watch your six [stay vigilant]?’ They knew what was coming.”

“It started like any other demonstration, except it was a lot of damn people but when it went south, it went south in a hurry. There was not enough people to stop what was coming. What hurt us was, these people, they planned for it. They knew we weren’t going to shoot. They knew they could get up on you and we’re not going to shoot unarmed people.”

“They’re methodical, lobbing cherry bombs, little bit of this and that. The people we were fighting. They had gas masks. They had earpieces. They had radios.”

We know now that the officers were woefully unprepared for the size and violence of the mob that invaded the place they were charged with protecting. Their efforts were heroic, but doomed, especially since the president didn’t want to order in the National Guard against his supporters. These officers faced every blockade imaginable in their path, but most of them persevered. They stood their ground as best they could and kept the mob away from the senators and representatives. The Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police acted as true heroes that day, despite all of the obstacles they faced. Hopefully we will learn from this very difficult lesson and do better by our protectors in the future.

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