At least 28 law enforcement officers from 12 states have been identified as attendees of the so-called “Save America” rally in support of Donald Trump that sparked the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, according to news reports that are being compiled by The Appeal. While several officers have been confirmed as forcing their way into the Capitol building, the exact number is still an open question.
Sheriff’s Lieutenant Roxanne Mathai in Bexar County, Texas, who has 70 to 80 employees under her command per shift, posted a video to social media showing her walking up the steps of the Capitol, while saying, “We’re going in. Tear gas and all. Tear gas don’t bother me.” In another post, Mathai described the mob attack on the Capitol as “the best day of my life.”
An 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department was identified as holding a Trump flag while breaking into the Capitol building and was placed on leave.
The police chief of Troy, New Hampshire, attended Trump’s “Save America” rally, but claims he did not force his way into the Capitol.
Philadelphia police detective Jennifer Gugger, who investigates potential recruits and who posted a QAnon-themed cover photo on Facebook, allegedly was part of the lynch mob (it is not yet clear whether she also broke into the Capitol) and has been reassigned.
Seven SEPTA Transit police in Philadelphia are under investigation for taking part in the pro-Trump rally and possibly for storming the Capitol. Officers in New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Washington State, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, California and Arkansas are facing similar allegations.
Most of the officers are under investigation by their employers and several have been reassigned, but none have been fired. On January 13, federal authorities arrested and charged two Rocky Mount, Virginia, police officers with misdemeanors after they posted selfies showing them inside the Capitol building on Facebook.
Meanwhile, over a dozen current and former police officers who were not physically present in Washington, D.C., have gone out of their way to show solidarity with the attempted coup or to push faulty conspiracy theories about the events of January 6.
In one case, a Secret Service agent accused lawmakers of “committing treason on live tv” in reference to the certification of election results. He falsely blamed “antifa” for “souring” the mood and attacking police at the Capitol.
In another case, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a far right group with a leading Sheriff-member who openly defended the plan to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, pushed the debunked conspiracy that “antifa” broke windows and that “[T]rump supporters actually tried to stop the violence and some tried to protect the police.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Chicago police union defended the fascist siege until being forced to apologize following backlash from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the National Fraternal Order of Police.
According to activist and Truthout contributing writer William C. Anderson, the framework of “infiltration” is not the best way to understand these displays of support from police for white supremacists and fascists, because the language of infiltration obscures the foundational structural alliance between policing and white supremacy.
“White supremacists do not ‘infiltrate’ police forces because they cannot infiltrate what’s always been theirs by design,” he told Truthout. Policing is “an institution that finds its roots in some of the worst oppressions this country has ever known, like slavery. Any white supremacist violence with police involved is the truest essence of policing historically and presently, not a deviation from it.”
Social media allows for individual officers’ biases to surface. In June 2019, a Reveal News investigation exposed hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers as members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or far right militia groups on Facebook.
In this context, the breaching of the U.S. Capitol, a highly surveilled building situated within one of the most heavily policed cities in the world, by the far right seems less far-fetched.
After the spectacle, social media users and some news outlets pointed out the stark contrast between police’s violent and militarized response toward Black liberation protesters and anti-fascists, and their soft-handed treatment of pro-Trump fascists.
A photo of an officer taking a selfie with one of the Trump loyalists attacking the Capitol went viral.
A Virginia police officer who broke into the Capitol told The Roanoke Times that, “The door was wide open and police officers were actually handing bottles of water out to people that came in.”
The New York Times reported that a Capitol Police officer tried to direct some fascists to Chuck Schumer’s office.
Footage of on-duty officers appearing to openly collaborate with the fascists by opening a barricade at the Capitol circulated widely on social media, while, in other instances, Capitol Police were vastly outnumbered and ill-equipped to handle the Trump supporters, who hit them with hockey sticks and a fire extinguisher.
New reports of police attendance at the pro-Trump rally have surfaced nearly every day since January 6.
Since policing is rooted in white supremacy, firing or arresting individual officers is unlikely to ameliorate structural problems associated with policing, according to abolitionist scholars, and such action may be championed to legitimize policing. As additional evidence of police complicity and involvement in the January 6 siege surfaces, abolitionists will continue repeating: “Yes We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.”