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Black police officer gives emotional account of racial attacks from Jan. 6 mob

"Those words are weapons," Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said of the racial slurs hurled at him by pro-Trump rioters.
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U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn delivered some of the most emotional testimony during Tuesday's Jan. 6 riot inquiry, describing how the mob hurled racial epithets at him and bemoaning the state of America.

"It was just so overwhelming," said Dunn, who joined three other police officers at the first hearing held by the House select committee. "And it's so disheartening and disappointing that we live in a country with people like that, that attack you because of the color of your skin, just to hurt you. Those words are weapons."

He said the racist attacks he was subjected to are, to some extent, American.

"But it's not the, it's not the side of America that I like," he said. "It's not the side that any of us here represent.

"We represent the good side of America, the people that actually believe in decency, human decency, and we appeal to, just, the good in people," he added.

It's not the first time Dunn, who also sustained physical assaults when a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol, opened up about the epithets he faced. In April, he told MSNBC that the combination of racist slurs and physical attacks meant Black officers faced a "different" battle while fending off the mob.

But in a hearing that coupled the firsthand accounts of officers with video of the day, Dunn's answers about suffering a barrage of racial attacks resonated as some of the most moving moments.

Dunn, a 13-year-veteran of the force, testified that as rioters were nearing the a room directly off the House floor, they shouted about having been invited by Trump to "stop the steal" — prevent the congressional affirmation of Joe Biden's victory. He said those rioters said "nobody voted" for Biden.

"I'm a law enforcement officer, and I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded: 'Well, I voted for Joe Biden. Does my vote not count? Am I nobody?'" said Dunn, who is Black. "That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled: 'Did you hear that, guys? This n----- voted for Joe Biden.' Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, 'Booo, f------ n-----.'

"No one had ever, ever called me a n----- while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer," Dunn continued, adding that after the riot he heard from other Black officers who faced racial abuse from the mob. "One officer told me he had never, in his 40 years of life, had been called a n----- to his face, and that streak ended on January 6th. Yet another Black officer later told me he had been confronted by insurrectionists in the Capitol who told him to 'put your gun down, and we'll show you what kind of n----- you really are.'"

Image: House Select Committee Investigating January 6 Attack On US Capitol Holds First Hearing
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn becomes emotional Tuesday as he testifies before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol at the Cannon House Office Building.Oliver Contreras / Pool via Getty Images

The description resonated for others.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., tweeted an extended clip of Dunn's response, saying: "Everyone should listen to Officer Harry Dunn's words about our country."

So far, more than 500 people have been criminally charged in connection with the riot, which led to the deaths of five people and injured dozens more.

Dunn said Tuesday: "Like, one of the scariest things about January 6th is that the people that were there, even to this day, think that they were right. They think that they were right. And that makes for a scary recipe for the future of this country. So I think that's why it's very important that you all take this committee seriously and get to the bottom of why this happened. And let's make it never happen again."

For months, Dunn was among the most active Capitol police officers pushing for post-riot accountability.

He lobbied for a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack — a commission whose passage Republicans ultimately blocked. Along with Washington Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who also testified Tuesday, Dunn met last month with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., urging him to publicly condemn the nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers who voted against awarding the officers the Congressional Gold Medal or downplayed the Jan. 6 violence. McCarthy, the officers said, told them he would address the matter privately.

Dunn's outspokenness has been vilified in some corners of the right. Ahead of his testimony, Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week attacked Dunn as an "angry, left-wing political activist" who "will pretend to speak for the country's law enforcement community."

Dunn closed Tuesday with a no-holds-barred call for uncovering the truth behind the attack.

"There's been a sentiment going around that says everybody's trying to make January 6th political," he said. "Well, it's not a secret that it was political. They literally were there to 'stop the steal.' So when people say it shouldn't be political, it is. It was and it is. There's no getting around that. Telling the truth shouldn't be hard."

He pointed to the protective fencing that recently came down around the Capitol, saying such moves were happening before any accountability had been determined.

"Everything is different, but nothing has changed," he said, adding: "So what I ask from you all is to get to the bottom of what happened.

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

CORRECTION (July 27, 2021, 10:45 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the name of the honor some congressional Republicans voted against for police agencies that responded to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The measure awarded them the Congressional Gold Medal, not the Congressional Medal of Honor.