UPDATED: 6 p.m. ET, Jan. 5, 2024
Three years ago on Jan. 6, 2021, a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in what was one of the most jaw-dropping moments in U.S. history.
America stood still that day.
Folks were glued to the television screen for hours as they watched Trump supporters beat on Capitol police, break windows and doors to breach the Capitol building, and even call for the hanging of political officials, including Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence. It was truly a terrifying sight to witness.
The purpose of the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally was to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s presidential election. The entire rally was based on “the big lie” that nonexistent voter fraud played a role in Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. The violent uprising left five people dead and hundreds injured.
But, even with the destruction and racist terror, a handful of Black people emerged as heroes among the brave Americans who stood up to the bigoted mob.
Capitol Police Officer Lt. Michael Byrd
Capitol Police Officer Michael Byrd was put in one of the toughest positions of anyone just trying to do their job on Jan 6. 2021. When the angry mob of white Trump supporters attempted to break into a sealed-off part of the Capitol building, Byrd was the first line of defense. His job was to protect elected officials and that’s exactly what he did, shooting a member of that mob named Ashli Babbitt as the 36-year-old Air Force veteran tried to get through a barricaded door.
In an interview with NBC News, Byrd explained to Lester Holt that he and a few other officers set up furniture to block the door to the room where 60 to 80 House members were being kept safe from the pack of wild MAGA enthusiasts who were attacking the Capitol.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out. If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress.”
Byrd said he shouted at rioters several times for them to back away from the glass door they were smashing to get into the barricaded area, and that’s when Babbitt tried to climb through one of the doors resulting in Byrd shooting her.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” he told Holt. “I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors. But their failure to comply required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”
Video footage posted on social media shows Babbitt’s final moments alive as she is seen wearing a Trump flag around her neck like a cape and yelling “Go! Go!” as two men lift her up and through the door’s broken glass.
Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn was also on the front lines during the Capitol attack. He was among four police officers who testified before the House Select Committee investigating the attacks. During his emotional testimony, he recalled his experience responding to the Capitol rioters. He described it as being largely racist. He testified that “no one had ever, ever called me ni**er while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police Officer” until Jan. 6.
Dunn testified that the experience compelled him to pull aside another Black officer with the U.S. Capitol Police in disbelief.
“I sat down on a bench in the rotunda with a friend of mine who is also a black Capitol police officer and told him about the racial slurs I endured,” Dunn said. “I became very emotional and began yelling, ‘how the blank could something like this happen. Is this America?’”
Dunn summed it all up neatly: “It was just so overwhelming and so disheartening and disappointing that we live in a country with people like that.”
Dunn’s testimony gave us a front-row seat into the minds of the protesters. Without him, we wouldn’t have a reliable first-hand account of the visceral racism that took place during the insurrection.
Now recently retired, Dunn announced on the eve of the third anniversary of the Capitol riots his candidacy to represent Maryland in Congress.
Reminding his followers that Biden awarded him with the Presidential Citizens Medal – the second-highest honor the government awards – Dunn wrote on social media that he is “running for Congress to stop Trump’s MAGA extremists & ensure it never happens again.”
Ruby Freeman & Shaye Moss
The mother-daughter duo of Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss testified before the Jan. 6 committee, detailing the harassment and targeting that began between the 2020 general election and the 2021 Georgia Senate runoff election.
During her video testimony, Freeman shared the horror of having the president use his platform and power to attack her by name. Both mother and daughter described fearing for their safety. Previous reports documented countless threats of violence, with no law enforcement agency intervening to protect them in the months after the election.
Moss shared that when she discovered hateful messages on social media, her mother said she was lucky it was 2020 instead of 1920.
Three years later, Trump and his RICO co-defendant cronies are still harassing Freeman and Moss, who were recently on the receiving end of a whopping $148 million judgment against former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for defaming the mother and daughter.
Separately, prosecutors in Trump’s fraud trial, which is set to begin in New York City in March, submitted a filing last month accusing the ex-president of subjecting Freeman and Moss to “vile and racist” threats from his supporters by calling the two Black women “monsters” who stole the election from him by using suitcases of ballots to add votes for President Joe Biden, which they did not do. The filing also accused Trump of doubling down on his nonsense after Freeman and Moss’ Jan. 6 committee testimony.
Trevian Kutti—the long Black woman accused in Trump’s RICO indictment of harassing Freeman and Moss—has appeared to be making veiled threats directed at the former election workers.
It has previously been reported that Trump used his social media platform to randomly resume his one-sided beef.
Freeman and Moss’ testimony gave an inside look at the harassment culture that Trump constantly used to get his way.
Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman
When the angry mob entered the capitol, there didn’t seem to be much resistance in the form of security or police. But amid the craziness was Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman. This one-man army was able to single-handedly fight back and lure the domestic terrorists storming the Capitol toward backup without resorting to lethal force. The feat was utterly amazing!
Goodman, who was only wielding a baton despite being armed with a service weapon, at times pushed the angry mob back before retreating up some stairs. At least one person who appeared to be leading the mob was wearing a shirt emblazoned by QAnon, a group of conspiracy theorists who have repeated Trump‘s baseless claims of election fraud.
Without the bravery of these fine men and women, we wouldn’t have the insight to understand how tragic the Jan. 6 insurrection really was. Let’s come together and give these great heroes and heroines a huge thank you for standing up in the face of violence, racism and bigotry.
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