A police officer who was the first witness to testify at a hearing into the US Capitol riot has described how she was “slipping in people’s blood” as the violence incited by Donald Trump escalated into “hand-to-hand combat”.
Caroline Edwards was the first officer injured by pro-Trump rioters as she attempted to contain barricades holding back members of the right-wing Proud Boys before they stormed the building.
She became the public face of the violence against law enforcement on day one of six planned congressional hearings into the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.
Airing on prime time TV in America, Edwards described how she was standing near the barricade when a bike rack was thrown on top of her and she hit her head on nearby stairs, losing consciousness.
But then “adrenaline kicked in” and the officer re-entered the fray as the rioting unfolded like “something I’d seen out of the movies”.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes: There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up,” she said.
“I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell.
“It was carnage. It was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle.”
As a police officer, Edwards said she was trained to arrest small numbers of people, but on that day she was thrust into a battle.
“I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd, but I’m not combat trained,” she said.
“That day, it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat.”
The granddaughter of a Korean war veteran, Edwards said the rioters dared to question her loyalty to the country as she found herself in battle against fellow citizens.
“I was called a lot of things on January 6, 2021 and the days thereafter,” said Edwards.
“I was called Nancy Pelosi’s dog, called incompetent, called a hero and a villain. I was called a traitor to my country, my home, 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 time…many, many times…how we had gotten here.
I had been called names before, but never had my patriotism or duty been called into question,” added Edwards.
“I am my grandfather’s granddaughter, proud to put on a uniform and serve my country,” said Edwards. “They dared to question my honour.
“They dared to question my loyalty. And they dared to question my duty.
“I am a proud American, and I will gladly sacrifice everything to make sure that the America my grandfather defended is here for many years to come.”
The public hearing also heard that then-president Trump “lit the flame” of the deadly US Capitol attack, but even his daughter Ivanka did not believe his claims of election fraud.
The riot followed shortly after the then president gave an incendiary speech to thousands of supporters repeating his false claims of a stolen 2020 election and urging them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell”.
But members of his own administration, including then attorney-general Bill Barr — as seen in video shown by the House of Representatives select committee — rejected Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud in his loss to Joe Biden.
The panel also showed video testimony from other senior Trump White House officials including then-vice president Mike Pence’s chief of staff.
Democrat Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, said in his opening statement: “The violence was no accident. It was Trump’s last stand.”