“There have been officers on the bottom,” Caroline Edwards testified Thursday night, through the first public listening to of the Home Choose Committee investigating the occasions of the January 6 rebellion. The Capitol Police officer was describing the violence she noticed as she tried to defend the constructing from the mob. She described her fellow officers, outnumbered and outmatched: “They have been bleeding,” she stated. “They have been throwing up. I noticed mates with blood throughout their faces. I used to be slipping in individuals’s blood.”
Within the listening to—the primary of a number of that may introduce the American public to the panel’s findings—the committee tried to do a number of issues directly. Most prominently, it outlined its legalistic case towards Donald Trump: that the previous president tried a coup that culminated with the violence of January 6. However the committee was additionally mounting a protection—of reminiscence itself. It was making an attempt to shock People out of simple amnesia and right into a stark remembrance of the rebellion. Video, as such, factored prominently within the proceedings. Footage of the day’s chaos, a few of it aired for the primary time, did what video does so effectively: It re-created the day, scene by scene. It illuminated and illustrated and reminded.
However one of many evening’s most notable ironies was that its strongest second got here not from the footage, however as an alternative from the phrases that Edwards delivered. Throwing up. Blood throughout their faces. Slipping in individuals’s blood. The story she informed, indifferent and intimate directly, sliced by means of the fog of forgetfulness, upending acquainted truisms in regards to the energy of images. Edwards’s testimony made the rebellion newly visceral. To a public that’s so vulnerable to numbness—and that’s so beset by cynicism that even video proof may be dismissed as a software of the “pretend information”—her measured phrases have been price a thousand footage.
Edwards, who spoke close to the tip of the listening to, described the day’s occasions in unsparing element: the way in which it slowly dawned on her how the violence would unfold (“I do know once I’m being was a villain,” she stated); the way in which the group turned a mob; the way in which the face-off between the officers and the insurrectionists devolved into hand-to-hand fight. She spoke of getting injured within the melee, as rioters handled a motorbike rack as a battering ram and her physique as an obstacle. She described how, confronted with the pressure of the group, she tumbled to the bottom. “I felt the bike rack come on high of my head,” she stated, “and I used to be pushed backward and my foot caught the stair behind me. And my chin hit the handrail. After which at that time, I had blacked out. However the again of my head clipped the concrete stairs behind me.”
That Edwards was describing one thing TV viewers had already seen solely made her testimony extra bracing. Shortly earlier than, the committee had performed a video clip displaying the group chanting “U-S-A!” and utilizing their collective pressure towards Edwards. It confirmed Edwards, making an attempt to face her floor, and eventually toppling, her legs bent into sharp angles.
The footage was onerous to observe—and more durable nonetheless when the published, fastidiously stage-managed, cut up its display to seize Edwards reacting as she noticed herself on movie. But it surely provided a easy alignment of story and imagery. Edwards’s phrases matched the video, and vice versa. That consonance made the day’s chaos appear profoundly simple. Donald Trump and his enablers have spent the previous 12 months and a half making an attempt to argue that the details of January 6 are fungible; that the reality of the rebellion is within the eye of the beholder. They’ve tried to show time’s passage into its personal software of propaganda. (“All. Outdated. Information,” the GOP Home Judiciary Committee account tweeted Thursday night, effectively earlier than the listening to had concluded.) However the video and the verbal testimony, thus mixed, countered such postmodern partisanship. They advised that “what occurred,” as a basic proposition, might be clearly ascertained. Sure, recollections fade. Sure, the shock recedes. However these items occurred. Right here is proof. Consider your eyes. Consider your ears.
“You’ll hear” and “you will notice” have been refrains of the night, as committee members Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney made their opening arguments to the American public. Fittingly, the opposite witness they known as, for this primary listening to, was Nick Quested, a documentarian who had captured among the day’s violence as a part of a movie he was compiling. Edwards and Quested, seated subsequent to one another as they answered questions, clarified the strategy the committee could be taking because it makes its case. In a second when details themselves are at stake, the listening to made its grimly elemental argument: that fact, in politics as in every little thing else, might be made legible. Fact shouldn’t be mere “narrative”; fact shouldn’t be partisan; fact shouldn’t be what a mendacity chief would favor it to be. Fact is as an alternative proper there, observable and apparent, captured by physique cams and movie crews, screaming and whooping because it forces its means into the constructing.
Edwards’s testimony was thus highly effective exactly due to its austerity. “Slipping in individuals’s blood”: This was a brand new means of framing the acquainted photographs. Her phrases, each sharp and blunt, made floor fact bracingly literal. And her testimony’s visible components served that sense of starkness. As she spoke, she sat at a plain desk, devoid of objects save for a placard of folded paper—OFFICER EDWARDS, it stated, in black print—a small bottle of water, and a single pen. Framed simply behind Edwards sat Sandra Garza, the companion of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died the day after the riot from two strokes, in keeping with D.C.’s chief medical expert. Edwards spoke slowly. She paused usually, seemingly scanning her reminiscence and looking for the precise phrases. She projected the warning and care typical of 1 beneath oath. “It was carnage, it was chaos,” she testified at one level. “I can’t even describe what I noticed.””
Public discussions of January 6, within the day’s instant aftermath and within the following months, have tended to resolve into broad queries. Was it a protest, or a riot, or an rebellion? Was it an remoted occasion, or a symptom of a broader conspiracy? The committee will possible be litigating these questions over the weeks to return. However Edwards’s testimony was a reminder, too, of the galling intimacy of the day’s violence. She was tear-gassed. She was knocked unconscious. She noticed her mates lined in blood. She noticed colleagues on the bottom. The assault, on high of every little thing else, enforced a sequence of class errors: It turned a office right into a conflict zone. It turned a crowd right into a mob. It turned an emblem of American democracy into an emblem of that democracy’s profound vulnerability. Edwards, together with her account, captured that sense of destabilizing wrongness. “I couldn’t consider my eyes,” she stated, as she described the shock of all of it. However then, after all, she needed to consider—as a result of what she noticed, in any case, was what occurred.