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Capitol Police Officer Testifies To The Racism He Faced During The Jan. 6 Riot

U.S. Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn testifies Tuesday during a House select committee hearing about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Oliver Contreras
The New York Times via AP
U.S. Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn testifies Tuesday during a House select committee hearing about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Updated July 27, 2021 at 1:32 PM ET

As pro-Trump insurrectionists poured into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a Black Capitol Police officer passionately testified Tuesday that he faced racist epithets, the likes of which he had never heard while serving in uniform.

"You hear that, guys, this n***** voted for Joe Biden!" a woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled toward Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn, he recounted, after Dunn said he voted for President Biden.

"Boo! F****** n*****!" the crowd of about 20 yelled back, Dunn recalled.

Dunn said his story wasn't unique. He heard from another Black officer that insurrectionists yelled at that officer: "Put your gun down, and we'll show you what kind of n***** you really are!"

(Read Dunn's full testimony here. Note that it contains profanity.)

Dunn said he tries to keep politics out of the job, but in this instance one of the rioters, whom Dunn told to leave the Capitol, said then-President Donald Trump invited them to the Capitol — and that no one voted for Biden.

"Well, I voted for Joe Biden," Dunn told the crowd in front of him. "Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?"

Later that afternoon, after the rioters had cleared, Dunn said he became emotional. Sitting on a bench with a fellow Black officer, he yelled, "'How the [expletive] can something like this happen?! Is this America?' I began sobbing, and officers came over to console me."

Trump's political power was fueled in part by white grievance, with supporters who latched onto his comments toward Spanish-speaking immigrants or his questioning of the intelligence and attitudesof many Black Americans. Those attitudes were on display on Jan. 6 as well.

Dunn said he has had to seek therapy and peer-group support after the day's events and encouraged other officers to do the same.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking professional counseling," Dunn said. "What we all went through that day was traumatic, and if you are hurting, please take advantage of the counseling services that are available to us."

He also asked Congress to review the mental health services available to Capitol Police, especially the amount of leave allowed.

Asked later about his frustration about that day, specifically whether this was America, Dunn reflected.

"Frankly, I guess it is America," he said. "It shouldn't be. But I guess that's the way things are. I don't condone it. I don't like it. ... We [the testifying officers] represent the good side of America, human decency. We appeal to the good in people."

Later in the hearing, Dunn questioned why it seemed so difficult for many to tell the truth about what happened during the insurrection.

"Telling the truth shouldn't be hard. Fighting on Jan. 6 — that was hard. Showing up Jan. 7 — that was hard," Dunn said.

"Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes, and while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard? I guess in this America, it is," he said, referring to the two Republicans on the Democratic-led committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi selected Cheney and Kinzinger to join the panel. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew his own Republican nominees after Pelosi rejected two of them.

Dunn added that he, along with the other three officers testifying before the committee, would "do Jan. 6 all over again" to protect democracy.

Asked what he'd like to see the committee examine in the course of its investigation, Dunn used the analogy of a hit man.

"If a hit man is hired and he kills somebody, the hit man goes to jail," he said. "But not only does the hit man go to jail, but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on Jan. 6, and a hit man sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.