Lawmakers and witnesses teared up during the first meeting House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol on Tuesday, where Democrats highlighted personal recollections from that day.
During the hearing, four police officers delivered emotional testimony to the panel, which featured nine members — seven Democrats and two Republicans, hand-picked by Pelosi.
Democrats began the hearing with an edited reel of protesters breaking into the Capitol building and assaulting Capitol Police officers and with the four officers sharing dramatic personal stories from that day.
The first witness, Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, told his story of becoming an Army reservist and a naturalized citizen before becoming a Capitol Police officer. He testified he was more afraid to work at the Capitol on January 6th than during his entire deployment to Iraq, where he said he went on supply missions on “IED-infested” roads.
“What we were subjected that day [to] was like something from a medieval battle. We found hand-to-hand, inch-by-inch, to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process,” he testified. “It was a prolonged and desperate battle.”
Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell tears up while testifying about being attacked by rioters on January 6, sustaining injuries he still suffers from today
"I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, 'This is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance'" pic.twitter.com/INLg6sgj8p
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 27, 2021
The second witness, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone, expressed anger as he recalled scuffling with protesters. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect people in this room. But too many are telling me that hell doesn’t exist, or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!” he shouted, slamming his hand down on the table in a dramatic moment.
D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone slams his hand on the table while calling out Congress members who downplay the Capitol attack
"Too many are telling me that hell doesn't exist, or that hell wasn't actually that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful." pic.twitter.com/LffiQSuzqM
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 27, 2021
The next witness, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges, repeatedly referred to protesters as “terrorists,” and described battling with protesters as being in a “meat grinder.” He claimed a rioter told him, “You will die on your knees.”
"You will die on your knees" — Officer Daniel Hodges on what a rioter said.
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) July 27, 2021
The last witness, Capitol Police Private First Class Harry Dunn, began his testimony asking for a moment of silence for Capitol Police Capt. Brian Sicknick, who died from a heart attack after January 6th.
Dunn testified that he told protesters that he voted for President Joe Biden, and that they booed and called him a “n*gger.” He said he had never been called that during his time in uniform. Dunn’s Twitter profile, where he also posted a copy of his opening statement, said, “Insurrection Stopper.”
The panel of mostly-Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans pressed the police officers for details on what it was like to work that day at the Capitol, with several breaking down in tears.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of two Republicans chosen by Pelosi to serve on the committee, broke down in tears as he addressed the officers:
I think it’s important to tell you right now, though, you guys may like feel individually a little broken. You guys all talk about the effects you have to deal with and you know, you know, you talk about the impact of that day. But you guys won. You guys held.
You know, democracies are not defined by our bad days. We’re defined by how we come back from bad days. How we take accountability for that. And for all the overheated rhetoric surrounding this committee, our mission is very simple, it’s to find the truth and to find accountability.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) began choking up towards the end of his statement as well. “It must be an Adam thing today,” he joked, in reference to Kinzinger tearing up.
— Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) July 27, 2021
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the other Republican chosen by Pelosi to serve on the committee, did not tear up, but delivered an opening statement that warned fellow Republicans that “our children are watching.”