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This immigrant police officer has proven to be more of an American than any of the Jan. 6 terrorists

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02.08.2021

It’s hard to overstate the body blow delivered to the entire right-wing project in the form of the four battle-scarred police officers who testified about their brutal experiences combating the mob of insurrectionists who Donald Trump unleashed against this country’s institutions on Jan. 6, 2021. Much as the nation’s armed forces, who the conservative multiverse leaps to lionize on every possible occasion, the country’s police represent its natural allies, their useful, quasi-military attack dogs against those Black people and brown-skinned immigrants who are the source (and ultimately the target of) nearly all their grievances. It’s a key component of their “us vs. them” philosophy, in which they reassure themselves who is a “real” American and who is not.

So it’s understandable that the spectacle of these police officers not only impugning the Jan. 6 mob’s actions as criminal but as fundamentally un-American, literally describing them as “terrorists,” evoked such a visceral negative reaction among the right. That interpretation, one which not only right-wing media, but nearly the entire Republican Party has struggled mightily since Jan. 6 to preempt, strikes at the very heart of the conservative mindset. And it’s even more intolerable—galling, even—when that inescapable conclusion presents itself in via an immigrant police officer and Iraq war veteran.

When he got off the plane at New York City’s JFK airport in 1992, setting foot in the country that would eventually become his home—the same country that he would sign up to defend and would send him to Iraq for 545 days—Aquilino Gonell had no idea he’d one day be assigned to protect the U.S. Capitol. Or that 30 years after he came to the U.S., he’d be testifying in front of a congressional panel and television cameras about injuries and attacks he’d sustained in an unprovoked, vicious attack on the foundation of his adopted country’s democracy.

Gonell didn’t know that he’d be called upon to explain, in vivid detail, the barrage of physical blows, hurled objects, racist taunts, and screaming insults disparaging his........

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