U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said Tuesday that he was subjected to racist and xenophobic insults as he fought to protect the Capitol from a violent mob of Trump supporters on Jan. 6.
"Apparently even through my mask they saw my skin color and said, 'You're not even an American,’" Gonell told members of the House select committee investigating the attack.
Gonell, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic as a child, is a naturalized citizen and an Iraq War veteran. In his opening statement to the committee, he said he’d decided to enlist in the U.S. military nearly three decades ago “because this country gave me an opportunity to become anything that I wanted.” Since then, he said, “I have always taken my oath seriously.”
But Gonell’s military background didn’t seem to matter to the rioters who sought to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to stop Joe Biden from being certified as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
"I know I'm an American soldier, former soldier, and a police officer,” Gonell said. "They don't know that.”
It wasn’t until later, after the riot, he said, that he was able to process what the insurrectionists’ words had meant.
"When I heard that, I wasn't even thinking about any racial stuff," Gonell told lawmakers. “I didn't take that into account when I was defending all of you guys.”
Gonell’s account was in line with the testimony provided by other law enforcement officers at Tuesday’s hearing. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn testified that he and other Black officers had been subjected to racist slurs by the rioters. D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges described the Jan. 6 attack as a “white nationalist insurrection.”
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