Capitol Hill Police officer Sgt. Aquilino Gonell faced the violent mob that rioted on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, to protect democracy, the Capitol of our nation, and the legal presidential election of 2020. An Army vet who fought in Iraq, he felt his president and Commander in Chief would have his back.
“I was betrayed by President Trump,” Sgt. Gonell wrote in a guest column this past weekend in The New York Times.
“I am an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, a U.S. Army veteran, and a sergeant who has worked on the force for 16 years, but I’ve never witnessed anything like the Jan. 6 attack — even in combat in Iraq. I was sure I was going to die that day, trampled by the hordes of President Trump’s supporters trying to stop the official transfer of power on his behalf,” he wrote.
He describes the horror and anger he felt while sitting in the House chamber when Cassidy Hutchinson testified about what she saw, heard, and remembered about the violent day on Capitol Hill:
Ms. Hutchinson, the former aide to Mr. Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that her boss said that things could get “real bad” on Jan. 6 and that Mr. Trump was warned that members of the crowd that had amassed were armed. Of course, I never would have imagined that an American president would not only not come to the aid of law enforcement officers defending the Capitol but encourage that crowd to march on it. Instead of being notified about the danger, my colleagues and I were kept in the dark, and thus walked into an ambush unprepared.
I don’t know what part of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony enraged me most: that Mr. Trump wanted to be driven to the Capitol to lead the vicious riot, that he’d spurred his supporters on knowing they were armed, or that he ignored some of his advisers and even his daughter who told him to call it off, allegedly fighting with his own Secret Service agent after he refused to let the president be driven there.
Or maybe it was the fact that Mr. Trump eventually told the rioters who’d criminally assaulted my colleagues and me while trying to bring down the U.S. government: “Go home. We love you. You are very special.”
Other disturbing details I heard at the hearing had to do with Mr. Trump’s apparent disregard for everyone but himself. Before Mr. Trump addressed his supporters on the Ellipse, ahead of the insurrection, he was told that those who were armed weren’t being let through security checkpoints and, according to Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony, he said, “I don’t effing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me.”–New York Times
In his passionate column, Sgt. Gonell laid out his horror of the nine people who died that day, including four officers who were driven to suicide by what they experienced and saw.
“We were savagely beaten and easily overpowered,” he said.
It was like a medieval battleground. With our lives in peril, I would have been justified in using lethal force. But I didn’t want to spark a massacre. Over the course of the five-hour struggle, my hands were bloodied from being smashed by a stolen police baton. My right foot and left shoulder were so damaged that I needed multiple surgeries to repair them. My head was hit with such force with a pipe that I no doubt would have sustained brain damage if not for my helmet.–New York Times
Sgt. Aquilino spent a year and a half in physical therapy fighting pain that “will never go away.” His wife dropped out of medical school to take care of him and help in his continued attempts to recover, only to learn this month that doctors say he should not return to police work.
Even more galling are the Republicans who still refuse to provide testimony under oath and instead dangerously downplay how close we came to losing our democracy. I applaud the courage of the witnesses who’ve come forward to tell the truth. I know from personal experience — I have given testimony several times about that day to Congress, to the F.B.I. and in court — how distressing it can be. I just wish we all had been able to testify sooner, right after Jan. 6, when we might have had more impact.
The enabling of Mr. Trump needs to stop now. He should not only be banned from running for any other government office, he should never be allowed near the White House again. I believe he betrayed his oath to defend the Constitution, and it was to the detriment of me, my colleagues and all Americans, whom he was supposed to protect.–New York Times
Sgt. Gonell is a brave patriotic hero who fought and was severely injured to help protect this nation and the democracy that is supposed to define it. He was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal and named a “Great Immigrant” by the Carnegie Corporation but his injuries are costing him a job where he performed admirably and was loved.
After the testimony of Ms. Hutchinson, also hailed as a brave, patriotic hero for coming forward and telling the truth about the disgraceful, corrupt actions of a dishonest, dishonorable president who continues to lie, cheat and commit fraud on the American people, more aides are coming forward to tell what they witnessed, first-hand, in the White House during Trump’s reign of terror.
As expected, Trump and his cohorts have tried, unsuccessfully, to discredit those now coming forward to offer truth, not lies. A key witness who appeared before the committee behind closed doors last Friday, former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, confirmed what Ms. Hutchinson revealed, a committee member told the media after his eight hours of testimony, and videos of his testimony are expected to be shown at a committee hearing this week.
Unlike Sgt. Gonell and Ms Hutchinson, those who still claim disgraceful loyalty to a con man and fraud, the truth is exposing his deceit and outright criminal behavior.
For America, Trump must be stopped and punished to the full extent of the law. Sgt. Gonell, Ms. Hutchinson, and those who place patriotism and love of country over politics and personal greed are pointing the way. We must not let them down.
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