Capitol riots: Police describe a medieval battle

Police officers who were targeted by a pro-Trump mob have been speaking out about the “medieval battle” that unfolded on the steps of the Capitol and inside the halls of American democracy last week.

Police faced off against rioters equipped with clubs, shields, pitchforks, firearms, and metal poles stripped from seating set up for next week’s inauguration.

Here’s what we’ve learned from their interviews with US media.

Michael Fanone, a 40-year-old DC plainclothes narcotics detective who was told to wear his uniform that day, rushed to the West Terrace of the Capitol where he took turns holding back the crowd, and resting to rinse his face of the the chemical irritants that that crowd was spraying on police.

“We weren’t battling 50 or 60 rioters in this tunnel,” the MPD (Metropolitan Police Department of District of Columbia) veteran told the Washington Post. “We were battling 15,000 people. It looked like a medieval battle scene.”

After he was grabbed by his helmet and dragged face-first down several steps, he said the crowd started stripping gear from his vest, including spare ammo, his radio and his badge – all while chanting “USA!”.

“We got one! We got one!” Mr Fanone said he heard people shout, with others chanting: “Kill him with his own gun!”

Some members of the crowd protected him after he started yelling that he has children, the father of four told CNN. He sustained only minor injuries but later found out in hospital that he had suffered a mild heart attack during the brawl.

MPD Officer Daniel Hodges, 32, had already been on shift for several hours before the rioting began.

“We were battling, you know, tooth and nail for our lives,” he told ABC News.

In one viral video, Mr Hodges is seen pinned in a glass doorway between officers and the crowd, as rioters strip his gas mask from his face and beat him with his own police-issued baton. One rioter tried to gouge his eyes.

“That was one of the three times that day where I thought: Well, this might be it,” said Mr Hodges. “This might be the end for me.”

As he choked on tear gas, he is seen on video gasping for air to call out for help. Enough police were eventually able to push through the melee to extract him.

“I had conspiracy theorists and everyone you could think of yelling at me, saying, ‘Why are you doing this, you’re the traitor,'” Mr Hodges told radio station WAMU.

“We’re not the traitors. We’re the ones who saved Congress that day, and we’ll do it as many times as necessary.”

Despite fearing for his life, Mr Hodges says he decided not to use his gun on the crowd.

“I didn’t want to be the guy who starts shooting, because I knew they had guns – we had been seizing guns all day,” he told the Post.

Robert Glover, the commander on scene for MPD, declared a riot at 13:50 local time, nearly two hours after Trump’s speech at the White House where he instructed his followers to go to the Capitol.

He quickly told officers to retake the inauguration bleachers, to stop the crowd from raining down heavy objects on officers from above.

Mr Glover told the Post that some rioters may have been caught up in the moment, but others seemed to be moving in “military formation” as if they had prepared for the assault. He said that some appeared to be using hand signals to co-ordinate tactics.

Several US military veterans, as well as off-duty police officers from Virginia, Maryland and Texas, have since been suspended or arrested for participating in the riot.

MPD Officer Christina Laury, 32, was among the first city police officers to arrive on the scene. When she got to the Capitol, officers were already being brutally attacked by rioters attempting to storm the building.

“They had bear mace, which is literally used for bears. I got hit with it plenty of times that day and it just seals your eyes shut. You just would see officers going down trying to douse themselves with water, trying to open their eyes up so they can see again.”

“The bravery and the heroism that I saw in these officers – the second they were able to open their eyes, they were back up front and they were just trying to stop these individuals from coming in.”

One officer being lauded as a hero has yet to speak about his experience – Officer Eugene Goodman, a member of Congress’ 2,100 member Capitol Police force.

Mr Goodman, an African American Iraq War veteran, was seen singlehandedly distracting a rampaging mob, giving lawmakers enough time to clear the chamber and get to safety.

The Capitol officer hailed as a ‘hero’
On Thursday, a cross-party group of lawmakers introduced a bill calling for him to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for his effort to defend democracy.

What about police criticisms?
The Capitol Police have been criticised over their response and preparation.

Several top Capitol security officials, including the Capitol Police chief and the sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate, resigned in the wake of the siege amid claims from lawmakers that they had not done enough to prepare for the mob.

On Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced General Russel HonorĂ© would be leading an immediate investigation of the Capitol’s security infrastructure.

Video footage has also emerged showing an officer taking a selfie with a rioter inside the Capitol. Some officers reportedly gave directions to rioters telling them how to get to the offices of Democratic lawmakers.

Several Capitol Police officers have been suspended for allegedly violating policies as the agency conducts an internal probe.