The US Capitol attack was like a "medieval battle", police officers said, as they denounced Donald Trump and his allies for "downplaying" the January 6 siege in a long-awaited hearing.

At the opening of a special House committee investigation into the events of that day, four police officers who were on duty as thousands of Mr Trump’s supporters stormed Congress gave evidence.

They described being called "traitors" by the mob and being attacked with hammers, their own shields, Tasers, and even American flags.

One of the officers, Michael Fanone described in agonising detail how he was beaten unconscious by the rioters who were intent on halting Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

As one rioter tried to pull his gun from its holster, the officer heard someone say: "Kill him with his own gun."

Police officers defending the Capitol reported being beaten by the rioters, attacked with Tasers and robbed of their possessions

Credit: Reuters

‘Indifference is disgraceful’

Officer Fanone directed his frustration at Mr Trump and many of his Republican loyalists for "downplaying or outright denying" the severity of the attack.

He said: "I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad."

Slamming the table in anger, he added: "The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful."

‘The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,’ Officer Fanone says.

‘Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office.’ pic.twitter.com/cas2jx8nS1

— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 27, 2021

‘Is this America?’ 

Officer Harry Dunn asked "Is this America?" after being racially abused by the mob

Credit: AP

Police officer Harry Dunn, who is black, described how he had been repeatedly racially abused by the mob.

The officer said he was confronted by agroup saying the election had been stolen and nobody had voted for Joe Biden. He responded that he had voted for Mr Biden and was not "nobody".

He told the hearing: "One woman in a pink ‘MAGA’ shirt [then] yelled, ‘You hear that, guys, this n—– voted for Joe Biden!’

"Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in, screaming ‘Boo! F—— n—–!’

"No one had ever, ever, called me a ‘n—–‘ while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer."

Shortly after the riot Officer Dunn broke down and was seen emotionally exclaiming "Is this America?" 

Officer Harry Dunn is hugged by Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney after his testimony

Credit: Reuters

It was like a ‘medieval battlefield’

Another officer, Aquilino Gonell, broke down as he told the panel how his family had desperately tried to reach him.

"What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battlefield. We fought hand-to-hand and inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process," he said.

He added: "I recall thinking to myself this is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance."

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a vocal Trump critic and one of two Republicans on the nine-member committee, asked the officer how he felt about Mr Trump’s calling his supporters a "loving crowd".

"It’s upsetting. It’s a pathetic excuse for his behaviour, for something that he himself helped to create, this monstrosity," Officer Gonnel said.

"I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day."

He dismissed a claim by Trump loyalists that hard-left agitators were behind the attack.

Pro-Trump protesters storming the US Capitol

Credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

"It was nobody else. It was not Antifa, Black Lives matter, the FBI, it was his supporters that he sent to the Capitol that day," he said.

Officer Gonnel accused Mr Trump of "sacrificing the country for his ego," and said "we should go to his house and do the same thing to him."

"He talks about sacrifices. The only thing he has sacrificed is the institutions of this country, and the country itself, only for his ego. Because he wanted to continue, He wants the job but he does not want to do the job. That’s a shame on him."

Later, the officer said: "My suggestion we go to his house…I apologise for my outburst." 

Officer Hodges: "I need you guys to address is anyone in power had a role in this, if anyone in power coordinated, or aided or abetted, or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of, this terrorist attack." pic.twitter.com/inVO6IGZEn

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 27, 2021

The fourth officer,  Daniel Hodges, asked the committee to investigate "if anyone in power had a role" in the Capitol attack.

"You guys are the only ones we’ve got to deal with crimes that occur above us… if anyone in power coordinated, or aided or abetted, or tried to downplay, tried to prevent the investigation of, this terrorist attack. Because we [police officers] can’t do it," he told the panel.

Trump’s role under scrutiny

Ms Cheney made clear that Mr Trump’s role in the attack will be heavily scrutinised by the panel.

The committee was established by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month after Republican senators blocked a move to create an independent bipartisan commission.

"We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House – every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack," Ms Cheney said as the hearing opened yesterday.

"If those responsible are not held accountable, and if Congress does not act responsibly… We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come, and another January 6th every four years.”

Her Republican colleague, Adam Kinzinger, rebuked his party’s leadership for failing to support the inquiry.

"Many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It’s toxic, and it’s a disservice to the officers and… to the American people who deserve the truth," he said.

One officer said that a rioter had tried to gouge out of his eye

Credit: Julio Cortez
/AP

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives have maintained the inquiry is politically motivated.

Before the hearing, Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican congressman, once again called the process a “sham”.

Another prominent Republican congresswoman, Elise Stefanik, blamed security failings for the attack.

"Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility as Speaker of the House for the tragedy that occurred on January 6th," she said.

It came as a poll found widespread unease among Republicans over the state of American democracy and the direction of the country.

Some 66 per cent continue to believe Mr Biden was illegitimately elected and 33 per cent are also pessimistic about the 

Republican Party’s future, according to the AP/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.