Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards gave searing testimony during Thursday’s opening hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, describing the violence perpetrated by supporters of former President Donald Trump in halting words.
“There were officers on the ground, they were bleeding, they were throwing up,” Edwards said. “I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood.”
Edwards told the committee she was knocked unconscious during the riot but continued to try to hold the line against the rioters when she was tear gassed.
“It was carnage. It was chaos,” she continued. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer I would find myself in the middle of a battle.”
Edwards said that during the riot, which supporters of Trump started in an attempt to block the certification of the Electoral College vote affirming Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, she saw Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters, looking “ghostly pale.”
Immediately following the deadly riot, which resulted in the deaths of five people at the event or shortly thereafter and left 138 police officers injured, numerous Republicans condemned the violence and seemed to distance themselves from Trump’s ongoing effort to contest the election.
“All I can say is count me out,” Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said. “Enough is enough.”
“The seat of our first branch of our federal government was stormed by criminals who brutalized police officers and used force to try to stop Congress from doing its job,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement issued following the insurrection.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas dubbed the riot a “violent terrorist attack on the Capitol.”
As time has passed, however, the condemnations have largely faded, and many in the party appeared to downplay the seriousness of the incident or what had inspired it from taking place.
“We’re ashamed of nothing,” Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said in a podcast interview with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon marking the one-year anniversary of the riot. “We’re proud of the work that we did on Jan. 6 to make legitimate arguments about election integrity.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Florida, who also appeared on the podcast, took aim at Democrats and the FBI for seeking to charge and punish those who breached the Capitol and force lawmakers who contested the election results to resign.
“They’re good at regime change, and how do you do it? You lay it out in a perfectly executed plan, and that’s what they did. They want to disqualify us ... they want to use the Jan. 6 committee,” Greene said.
On Wednesday, Washington Commanders football coach Jack Del Rio told reporters, “I see the images on TV. People’s livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down — no problem. And then we have a dustup at the Capitol, nothing burned down ... and we’re going to make that a major deal.”
Edwards, however, said the hyperpartisan drift of the country took her and the other officers at the Capitol by surprise.
"I was called a lot of things on January 6, 2021, and the days after. I was called Nancy Pelosi's dog, called incompetent, called a hero and a villain,” she told the committee. “I was called a traitor to my country, my oath and my Constitution. In actuality, I was none of those things. I was an American standing face to face with other Americans, asking myself, how many times, many, many, times, how we had gotten here?”
—Dylan Stableford contributed reporting