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Katy Burns: No moving on without accountability

For the Monitor
Published: 8/1/2021 9:00:10 AM

“There can be no moving on without accountability. There can be no healing until we make sure this can’t happen again.” — D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges.

“How do you move on without correcting what happened? No.” — U.S. Capitol police officer Harry Dunn.

Some people wonder why we need Congressional hearings into the events of last January 6. Last Tuesday’s hearing with four police officers who were there that day vividly demonstrates why.

Ordinarily, I’d think, the job of policing our country’s Capitol zone is a pretty pleasant one, as far as cop jobs go. Members of Congress and their staff are not normally a rambunctious bunch. And the crowds of tourists who show up to see the seat of America’s government are usually sort of star-struck, especially the hordes full of wide-eyed school kids who traditionally are bussed to Washington from throughout the country to see how government works.

We were among the gawkers several years ago when we found ourselves in our nation’s capital, and it was plain that, except for the friends we were visiting, Washington D. C., almost completely cleared out for Easter. It was a ghost city. And our friend’s young son had a great idea. He was an intern in a congressional office. How about a private tour?

The Capitol was even more deserted than the rest of the city. I’m sure there were guards, but we seemed to be the only other people in the place. It was, and is still, presumably, a beautiful building that’s meticulously maintained. The surprisingly small rooms and paneled corridors gleamed with well-polished old wood and the two main debating chambers, the House and the Senate, were awesome, in the original and best meaning of the word. To see them was to be overwhelmed by a sense of the history they’d seen and the fabled lawmakers who’d walked their floors.

The chambers were also, as these things go, tiny. It struck us at the time that they, as well as the building, were somehow ominously fragile-looking in their antiquity.

As we and the world learned last January 6, they were fragile and distressingly vulnerable to a hostile force. And not one composed of malevolent foreigners speaking an alien and crude tongue, as bad dreams, bad movies and bad prose often posit. Instead, the Capitol was assaulted by ordinary-appearing Americans.

January 6 was the day self-styled armed revolutionaries who had come to Washington from throughout the country stormed the Capitol to disrupt the routine and orderly change of presidents. They were exhorted before their march on the Capitol to do so in a fiery speech by the defeated president, Donald Trump, who insisted to his followers that somehow, despite all fact-based evidence to the contrary, including exhaustive vote counting and re-counting, he had won the November election.

The presidency, he shouted to the loyal throngs who’d answered his call to come to the district, had been “stolen” from him. And he called upon them to get it back. He would, he vowed, march with them. Rather than march with his people, he — of course! – went back to the White House and plopped himself down in front of one of his many TVs.

While he watched the mayhem he’d ignited, Trump’s army, albeit a non-uniformed one which seemed to be composed largely of middle-aged white suburban American men who were armed with battering rams, broken gates and fences, sabers, spears, machetes, hockey sticks and baseball bats, reached the Capitol and stormed the building on an otherwise lovely sunlit day.

Their immediate goal was to stop the orderly transfer of power that has taken place every four years since the founding of the nation. What they would have done in the long haul, had they succeeded in taking control of the Congress, is not altogether clear, although at least a hint at their intentions was shown by the crude-but-frightening gallows they hastily erected.

They sought nothing less than the overthrow of our nation’s democratically elected government. They stalked the halls of that fragile old Capitol building, smashed windows and doors, and viciously assaulted its defenders with every weapon they could find. As more than one of the assaulted officers testified, those seemingly ordinary citizens, once they moved on the seat of our nation’s government, were terrorists, pure and simple.

And because of them, for only the second time in its history, the elegant, revered and sometimes imitated Capitol was invaded. And unlike the first time, in the War of 1812 when British troops burned the building, on January 6 it was self-proclaimed American “patriots” who stormed that symbol of democracy.

They deserve whatever punishment the true upholders of law and order might mete out.

And we can safely say that what happened that day makes it crystal clear that the instigator of the destruction and the would-be revolution, Donald Trump, thoroughly disgraced his office and is utterly unfit ever to hold public office, any public office, again.

And the attacks continue. Just after I wrote this on Wednesday morning, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who had a heart attack when he was viciously beaten by the invaders who then threatened to shoot him with his own gun, released a voicemail he got after his testimony.

“You’re a punk f****t, you’re a lying f**k! Too bad they didn’t beat the s**t out of you more. You’re a piece of s**t! They stole the election from Trump… I wish they would have killed all you scumbags.”

The message went on. I won’t. But it vividly demonstrates why we need these hearings.

(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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