On January 6, 2021, a mob stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election, leaving five people dead and more than 130 police officers injured.
In the days and weeks since that horrifying attack, the politicians who supported the insurrection, along with the right-wing media who fueled it, have attempted to re-write history and obscure the true horror of the event. But at Veterans for Responsible Leadership (VFRL), we will not forget what happened that day and we will hold those politicians and media outlets responsible for their part in the violence.
We will remember that one of the five dead was a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who collapsed from injuries sustained during the riot and later died. He was sprayed with a toxic chemical during the insurrection; two other officers who were similarly sprayed were also injured. One officer had scars under her eyes for weeks from the assault.
Other officers sustained equally horrifying injuries. For two and a half hours they engaged in hand-to-hand combat, trying to protect the elected officials inside the Capitol, which included then Vice President Mike Pence and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, lawmakers and their staff and reporters. The officers were kicked, punched, beaten and trampled. They were sprayed and struck with fire extinguishers. They were assaulted with their own gear; one officer was beaten with an American flag. Officers emerged from the fighting with blunt force trauma, bleeding head wounds, bruises and breaks. One officer suffered a heart attack.
The trauma these officers sustained goes beyond their physical injuries. The audio and video recordings from that day is terrifying: from their radios, officers call out, “Shots fired!” and “We’ve lost the line… we’ve lost the line!” Video shows an officer seized by his leg and dragged into the crowd over the body of another officer. Following the insurrection, two Capitol police officers who had been on duty on January 6th committed suicide. Other police officers are still suffering from the emotional fallout: weeks later, one officer reportedly turned her weapon in because she was afraid she would use it on herself.
The violence was perpetrated by right-wing rioters, but they themselves were not immune to it. One was shot by Capitol police while breaching the building; one trampled in the crush and died of her injuries. Two other people present at the protest and subsequent riot died during the insurrection from natural causes.
VFRL members have not and will not forget the events of that day and will fight any attempts to cover up or diminish the horror. VFRL members intend to hold accountable those elected officials who endorsed, supported, or stoked the violence: particularly the 147 Senators and Representatives who voted against certifying the election results. VFRL members intend to work to unseat those politicians who whose false and self-serving rhetoric in the months after the 2020 Presidential election set the conditions that made the attack on the Capitol possible.
Veterans for Responsible Leadership is a fully inclusive, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to preserve the integrity of American democracy against those who seek to undermine and subvert its institutions, the rule of law, and electoral system for personal or political advantage. Its members believe that service to the country shouldn’t end when they take off the uniform, and all are asked to sign the Veteran Code to keep faith with their oath, their country, and their fellow veterans.