A Republican congressman has described the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection as a “normal tourist visit.” During the opening hearing of the House select committee investigating that event, D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges was asked about this comment. He responded, “Well, if that’s what American tourists are like, I can see why foreign countries don’t like American tourists.”
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI received many warning signs of what was to come on Jan. 6. R.P. Eddy, a former director of the National Security Council, told NPR that the problem might be the “invisible obvious” — events which are in front of us which we don’t notice. He said it is very difficult for decision makers and analysts in those agencies “to realize that people who look just like them could want to commit this kind of unconstitutional violence and could literally try to and want to kill them.”
Eddy said, “Foe look differently, foe act differently, say different things. They don’t have the same bumper stickers. They don’t have the same yellow flag of ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’ It was hard for them to see that the law-and-order hierarchy in which they were born and bred … where they got their paycheck, was inciting the mob that was going to commit the violence that was indeed the foe, not the friend.”
It is truly alarming how many law enforcement and military personnel (current and retired) participated in the insurrection. Hodges, a young white officer, told the committee that the mob was “overwhelmingly white males” and that he was treated quite differently from his non-white fellow officers.
He said it was a “white nationalist insurrection” with disciplined members of racist gangs such as the Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. “Some of them would try to, try to recruit me,” he noted. “One of them came up to me and said, ‘Are you my brother?’”
Harry Dunn, a Capitol Hill officer who is Black, testified that he was repeatedly called the “N” word by rioters and that other Black officers had similar experiences.
Hodges repeatedly referred to the rioters as “terrorists.” He described how he was crushed in a doorway by the mob and then assaulted from all sides. About 140 D.C. and Capitol Hill police were injured. Another died after being assaulted. Four others committed suicide.
D.C. police officer Michael Fanone told the House committee how he was beaten and electrocuted over and over with a stun gun. He suffered a small heart attack and brain injuries. He condemned the many Republican lawmakers whose lives he defended that day as “downplaying or outright denying what happened.”
Later on CNN, Fanone said he had hoped that the nation’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), would come out strongly in defense of him and his fellow officers. He had been a dues-paying member of the FOP since he first became a cop. He said that he and the others waited for six months without being contacted by the union. He then had a conversation with national FOP president Patrick Yves and “wasn’t particularly impressed.”
Later, CNN’s Jake Tapper spoke with Yves and asked him why the union hasn’t been more supportive of Fanone and the other cops who defended the Capitol. Tapper said they have been “smeared” by “MAGA media, MAGA politicians.” Yves said the FOP condemned the riot but Tapper said their response was much milder than their declarations of support for other cops in controversial situations. He wondered if this was because the FOP had endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020.
In fact, FOP and other police unions have frequently been accused of protecting many officers who were abusive, violent and racist. In The New Yorker in 2020, Steven Greenhouse cited “recent studies (which) suggest that their political and bargaining power has enabled them to win disciplinary systems so lax that they have helped increase police abuses in the United States.”
Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, told Greenhouse: “(Police unions) have more clout than other public-sector unions, like the teachers or sanitation workers, because they have often been able to command the political support of Republicans. That’s given them a big advantage.”
Recently, many protesters and even some unions have urged the AFL-CIO, the nation’s main labor federation, to expel the International Union of Police Associations, which represents 100,000 law-enforcement officers.
Lately, rightwingers have been using this controversy to argue for the maiming or elimination of all public employee unions.
We should ask a larger question. What is the role of law enforcement in a genuinely democratic and multi-racial society?
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.