One question the Jan. 6 committee should ask every police officer injured during the insurrection

One question the Jan. 6 committee should ask every police officer injured during the insurrection

The response of the Washington, D.C. Capitol Police to the events of Jan. 6 has been closely examined and debated from practically the first moments of the insurrection itself. There have been credible accusations that the police deliberately responded sluggishly or with intentional forbearance given that the thousands of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol were almost entirely white. There is also strong evidence that some of the Capitol officers willingly abetted the insurrectionists by allowing access to the Capitol building at critical times during the event. There has been credible evidence indicating that some in the Capitol police hierarchy were aware of the insurrectionists’ plans to attack Congress beforehand and still did nothing to prepare against the attacks.

All of these assertions deserve to be fully investigated. But one thing remains absolutely undeniable: the Capitol and D.C. police were the only thing standing between the insurrectionists and the elected representatives and senators trapped in the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Had it not been for the presence and efforts of most of these officers, many of the Trump-supporting thugs who violently smashed their way through glass doors for the sole purpose of finding these officials would have inflicted violence on those same officials. Absent the police, some of these representatives and senators would almost certainly have been killed or otherwise assaulted by the members of this uncontrolled mob.

One other thing is clear: about 140 Capitol and D.C. police officers suffered injury in their efforts to repulse the attack on Jan. 6. Some of them were so gravely injured, both mentally and physically, that they may never return to work as police officers. Others find themselves now disabled from injuries inflicted during the melee on that day or stricken with PTSD more reminiscent of the wartime experience of Vietnam or Iraq veterans who have seen close combat. 

Many of those injured as a result of the events at the Capitol will doubtlessly be called as witnesses by the select committee now formed to investigate the cause of the insurrection.They will be asked about the extent of their injuries, and how they received those injuries. So here is one simple question that members of that committee should ask each and every one of these officers, preferably at the close of their testimony:

Did President Donald Trump ever contact you to apologize, or express his sympathy, gratitude or appreciation for your sacrifice?

I’m quite certain the answer of each of these officers will be “no.”

This weekend the Washington Post ‘s Peter Hermann highlighted the extent of injuries sustained by several officers defending against the attacks. As Hermann reports, these officers were “bludgeoned with poles and bats, pushed and trampled, and sprayed with chemical irritants.” Others were struck, often in the head, by thrown objects. One who was knocked unconscious could “barely walk, barely talk” in the days following the attacks, and is still out of work, having suffered a severe concussion. Several officers now suffer from ongoing neurological problems after being assaulted with such objects:

Some officers who were assaulted Jan. 6 experienced different or worsening symptoms in the weeks and months that followed, indicating they may have suffered injuries more severe than had initially been believed, in particular undiagnosed head trauma, according to a therapist who has seen hundreds of D.C. officers. She thinks others who emerged exhausted and sore may not have reported injuries, or even recognized they needed medical care.

One officer, Brian Sicknick, succumbed to two successive strokes one day after being assaulted and pepper-sprayed by the Trump mob. Two officers have committed suicide as a result of mental and physical trauma sustained during the attacks. One turned in her weapon, fearing that she would use it on herself. According to their union, several officers present that day are unlikely to ever return to work due to physical injuries they sustained.

Other scars are less visible but no less real. One Black police officer, repeatedly vilified as a “n—–” by Trump’s supporters, screaming it in his face as they assaulted him, has undergone marked changes in his personality. Others have sustained emotional trauma that has impaired their ability to function and impacted their relationships with their spouses and families.

Officer Michael Fanone is already familiar to many. Beaten unconscious by the Trump-incited mob, he has spearheaded a personal effort to obtain recognition for the sacrifices of his fellow officers. Fanone’s post-hospitalization course is emblematic of other officers injured that day: debilitating headaches, nausea, and dizziness symptoms common to post-concussion survivors, along with cognitive impairment, nervousness, and anxiety more akin to sufferers of PTSD. For his efforts in defending the Capitol, Fanone was rewarded by Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde, who refused to shake his hand. when the two met in an elevator (Clyde had previously referred to the Capitol attacks as a “tourist visit”).

Another officer, Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, a veteran of the Iraq war, was interviewed by Hermann for the Post article:

Gonell fought on the Capitol’s West Terrace. He said he and his colleagues were called unpatriotic, scum, traitors and un-American. He didn’t know he had been struck with a speaker until he saw himself on a video.

After the riot, Gonell powered through his injuries and insisted on working through the Jan. 20 inauguration, hiding his limp and shoulder pain and ignoring a doctor’s advice to take it easy. He stopped only after Biden was sworn in, when his foot had become dangerously swollen and he could no longer stand.

All of these injured officers have something in common: they were all injured as a direct result of a mob incited by Donald Trump to attack the Capitol. While these policemen and women were subjected to the full fury of the mob, Donald Trump (who had falsely reassured the rioters that he would be present alongside them during the assault) simply sat watching them being beaten, enthralled, in front of his television set for literally hours. Far from doing anything to stop the mayhem that he had incited, he encouraged it by refusing to do anything at all, even coyly tweeting at one point that the attackers were “very special.”

In his open letter to all members of Congress, Officer Fanone wrote that the “indifference shown to my colleagues and I is disgraceful.” 

“As the physical injuries gradually subsided, in crept the psychological trauma. In many ways I still live my life as if it is January 07, 2021. I struggle daily with the emotional anxiety of having survived such a traumatic event but I also struggle with the anxiety of hearing those who continue to downplay the events of that day and those who would ignore them altogether with their lack of acknowledgement. The indifference shown to my colleagues and I is disgraceful.”

At the time Fanone was referring to the fact that Republican members of the House and Senate refused to acknowledge the viciousness and extent of the assault or even the reason it occurred. Since that time, Republicans have even attempted to ascribe some sort of heroism or justification on the part of these insurrectionists. Trump himself has called them “great people,” and a “loving crowd.”

So, after each officer testifying before the committee sets forth—in painstaking detail—the extent and cause of his/her injuries sustained at the hands of the Trump mob, the committee members will have an opportunity to simply remind Americans that all of those officers’ injuries stemmed entirely from one man’s malice, depravity and complete indifference to their fate. An indifference that he has never once even tried to hide or disguise by the slightest expression of sympathy or appreciation for their sacrifice.

Did President Donald Trump ever contact you to apologize, or express his sympathy, gratitude or appreciation for your sacrifice?

That, at the very least, should leave an impression.

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