It had only been hinted at in previous public examinations of the Jan.6 Capitol uprising: Scores of rioters attacked police officers not just with improvised weapons, stun guns and fists, but with racist slurs and accusations of treason.
Four officers, two from the U.S. Capitol Police and two from the DC Metropolitan Police Department, detailed on Tuesday the racism and bigotry they encountered during the violent assault on the Capitol. His straightforward and heartbreaking accounts explained the hours when pro-police sentiment from Trump supporters was pushed aside, consumed by the fury of wanting to keep him in the White House.
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn told lawmakers about an exchange he had with the rioters, who questioned President Joe Biden defeating former President Donald Trump in the last presidential election. When Dunn, who is Black, argued with the rioters that he had voted for Biden and that his vote should be counted, a crowd began throwing the N-word at him.
“A woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ (Make American Great Again) t-shirt yelled, ‘Hey guys, this n ——— voted for Joe Biden!’” Said Dunn, who has served more than a dozen years. at the Capitol Police Force.
Then the crowd, maybe around 20 people, joined in yelling ‘Boo! F ——— n——! “He testified. He said that no one had ever called him the N-word while wearing the uniform. That night, he sat in the Rotunda of the Capitol and cried.
Before Tuesday’s hearing, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, a member of the panel, said Capitol and DC officials would provide information on “what it was like to be on the front lines.”
However, Dunn also touched on the experience of being an African-American police officer, which represents 29% of the approximately 2,300 officers and civilians who serve in the Capitol police force.
Dunn said he was told by another black officer that, while confronting the rioters on January 6, they told him to “put down the gun and we’ll show you what kind of n … you really are!”
The chairman of the panel, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, pushed Dunn further on how he felt about being an African-American officer who confronts racists and endures racial slurs in the halls of democracy.
“It’s so disheartening that people like this attack you just because of the color of your skin,” Dunn replied. “Once I was able to process it, it hurt. My blood is red. I am an American citizen. I am a police officer. I am a peace officer. “
While African Americans make up about 13% of the US population, in 2016 they were about 11% of all police officers in a sample of 18,000 local law enforcement agencies in the US, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics More than 71% of officers were white in 2016.
It is this kind of treatment suffered by black men and women in law enforcement that police experts say makes it difficult to recruit and diversity among American police forces. The law enforcement profession has also struggled with its origins in America, dating back to slave patrols in the early 18th century formed to capture people who escaped slavery and terrorize the enslaved into submission. . Although many African Americans have served valiantly in local and federal law enforcement since the civil rights movement, data shows that African Americans are still arrested in disproportionate numbers and are more likely to be fatally shot by the police.
Another Capitol Police Officer, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, wiped away tears as he recalled the story of his immigration to the United States from the Dominican Republic, only to face fellow Americans who considered him a traitor for defending the Capitol on 6 January.
“It was very disappointing,” Gonell said. “I saw many officers fighting for their lives against the people, the rioters (and) the citizens, turning against us.”
Gonell, a veteran of the Iraq War, also called the mixed response from law enforcement to the overwhelmingly white crowd of rioters and the response to the racial justice protests in 2020 that followed the murder of George Floyd and the police involved the deaths of other black Americans.
“As the United States and the world watched in horror what was happening to us on Capitol Hill, we did not receive the reinforcements and timely support that we needed,” he said. “By contrast, during last year’s Black Lives Matter protest, the US Capitol Police had all the support we needed and more. Why the different answer? “
In fact, law enforcement agencies in dozens of cities last year showed overwhelming force toward BLM protesters. Many used chemical dispersants, rubber bullets, and hand-to-hand combat with largely peaceful crowds and some rogue vandals and looters. By the end of 2020, the police had made more than 14,000 arrests.
In January, when images and videos emerged of the attacks on the Capitol, a racist and anti-Semitic element became apparent among the rioters. A man was photographed inside the Capitol building with a Confederate battle flag.
And in the nearly seven months since the attacks, further video investigations revealed that several rioters had displayed white supremacist gang signs and “white power” hand signs during the insurrection.
Gonell also highlighted the hypocrisy he perceived from many of the rioters who profess to support law enforcement – “the thin blue line” – but disagreed with those who protested for Floyd last summer.
“There are those who expressed outrage when someone just knelt for social justice during the national anthem,” Dunn said. “Where are those same people expressing outrage at condemning the violent attack on law enforcement officers, the United States Capitol, and our American democracy?”
“I’m still waiting for that,” he said.
Morrison reported from New York. He is a member of the AP Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.