Editor's note: Video shown during the hearing may contain violence and profanity.
The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is holding its first meeting Tuesday. Four police officers are giving testimony about the physical and verbal assaults they faced responding to the riot that day.
The four officers — Pfc. Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department — each gave opening statements and are answering questions from committee members.
Gonell recounted the events of that day and the impact it has had on law enforcement officers: "For most people, Jan. 6 happened for a few hours," he said. "But for those of us who were in the thick of it, it has not ended."
Listen live to the hearing and NPR's analysis on the NPR One app.
What the officers saw, felt and heard
The Metropolitan Police's Fanone described his experience heading to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to assist the Capitol Police. He said the scene he found as he worked his way to the Capitol's West Front, where thousands of rioters were violently clashing with police, was "nothing short of brutal."
Fanone decried those in Congress who are "downplaying or outright denying what happened" that day, saying, "I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them."
"The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful!" Fanone shouted as he pounded the witness table. "Nothing, truly nothing has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so betray their oath of office."
Hodges repeatedly called the members of the mob attack on the Capitol "terrorists." He said that to his "perpetual confusion, I saw the 'thin blue line' flag, the symbol of support for law enforcement, more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us."
Capitol Police officer Dunn said he was in the Speaker's lobby outside the House chamber when one of the insurrectionists said "Trump invited us here," and that Trump was still the president.
"Nobody voted for Joe Biden," Dunn said the man told him. Dunn said he responded that he had voted for Biden, asking "Does my vote not count?"
He told the panel a woman in a pink MAGA shirt then yelled, "You hear that guys? This n***** voted for Joe Biden." Dunn said that the crowd of around 20 people joined in screaming "Boo, f****** n*****!" Dunn continued, "No one had ever, ever called me a n***** while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer."
Panel calls for investigation of the "big lie"
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., gave impassioned opening remarks, describing the threat to democracy and blasting those who have dismissed the magnitude of what happened on Jan. 6:
Some people are trying to deny what happened. To whitewash it. To turn the insurrectionists into martyrs.
But the whole world saw the reality of what happened on Jan. 6. The hangman's gallows sitting out there on our [National] Mall. The flag of that first failed and disgraced rebellion against our union, being paraded through the Capitol. The hatred. The bigotry. The violence.
And all of it: for a vile, vile lie. Let's be clear. The rioters who tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie. As chairman of this Committee, I will not give that lie any fertile ground.
We need to understand how and why the Big Lie festered. We need to know minute by minute how Jan. 6 unfolded. We need to understand how the rotten lie behind Jan. 6 has continued to spread and feed the forces that would undermine American democracy.
And we need to figure out how to fix the damage.
Editor's note: Video played during the hearing contains violence and profanity.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., one of two GOP House members named to the panel by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also gave an opening statement, saying the panel must look into the actions of former President Donald Trump on that day.
We cannot leave the violence of Jan. 6 and its causes uninvestigated. We must know what happened here in the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House. Every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to during and after the attack.
Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward.
If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic.
The second Republican member on the panel, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a member of the Air National Guard, said he was called to service during the unrest after the killing of George Floyd last summer, but said there was no comparison with what happened Jan. 6.
"There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law," Kinzinger said. "Between a crime, even grave crimes, and a coup." His voice breaking, he told the panel of four officers, "You guys won, you guys held," he said.
"Democracies are not defined by our bad days," Kinzinger said. "We're defined by how we come back from bad days."
Kinzinger said that many in his party "have treated this as just another partisan fight. It's toxic and it's a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees of the Capitol complex, to the American people who deserve the truth and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance. Because self-governance is at stake."
Kinzinger said that "it's time to stop the outrage, and the conspiracies that fuel the violence and division in this country. And most importantly we need to reject those that promote it."
Who's on the select committee
The select panel contains seven Democratic members and two Republicans appointed by Pelosi, Cheney and Kinzinger. Cheney and Kinzinger were among the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were meeting to certify the election of President Biden.
Pelosi last week rejected two Republicans named by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to serve on the panel, Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Both Banks and Jordan are staunch backers of Trump and publicly expressed doubt about the motives of the panel.
Their rejection by Pelosi prompted McCarthy to withdraw his other nominees to the select committee. McCarthy threatened Republicans would conduct their own investigation into the events of that day.
The select committee is the latest attempt by Congress to look into the Jan. 6 insurrection and what led up to it. Trump was impeached over his involvement in the riot after days of public testimony. In addition, the Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees conducted their own set of hearings.
So far, more than 550 people have been arrested in connection with the storming of the Capitol, and more than half a dozen have pleaded guilty.
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