On January 6, 2023, the world witnessed the shocking events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol. The aftermath of that tumultuous day continues to cast a long shadow on American democracy, leaving many searching for a path toward closure. Former U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, who played a pivotal role in defending the Capitol on that fateful day, believes that barring former President Donald Trump from holding public office could be a potential avenue to achieve that sense of closure.
In a recent interview with Dean Obeidallah on SiriusXM, Gonell expressed his thoughts on what closure could mean in the context of the January 6 riots. He shared, “What is closure for me? I don’t know,” and went on to elaborate, suggesting several possible outcomes, such as Trump being prevented from reentering the political arena or facing legal consequences for his alleged involvement in the Capitol breach. Gonell asserted, “It could be that he loses everything he had because he put everybody else’s lives at risk.”
The former President is currently grappling with multiple lawsuits in different states, all aiming to prohibit him from appearing on the ballot in the 2024 presidential election. These legal challenges claim that Trump violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies individuals from holding public office if they have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the government.
Gonell, an upcoming author with a book titled “American Shield: The Immigrant Sergeant Who Defended Democracy,” firmly believes that Trump bears responsibility for the attack on the Capitol due to his role as President of the United States. He has previously voiced his sentiment that Trump betrayed his oath to the Constitution.
Gonell’s perspective centers on the idea that the insurrection was, in essence, an attack on Trump’s own government. With numerous high-ranking members of Congress fearing for their lives during the chaos, Gonell argues that it posed a significant threat to national security. In his view, excusing or ignoring Trump’s involvement is unfathomable.
A decorated Congressional Gold Medal recipient for his role in defending the Capitol against the rioters, Gonell’s commitment to justice is underscored by the personal sacrifices he has endured. Due to injuries sustained on January 6, Gonell has reported that he is no longer physically able to perform the duties associated with his role. Prosecutors have revealed that rioter Kyle Fitzsimons, a professional butcher from Maine, inflicted a “career-ending and life-altering” shoulder injury upon Gonell during the chaotic events.
Reflecting on that harrowing day, Gonell has disclosed that he feared for his life as he confronted the rioters. He was at a point where he contemplated using lethal force against Fitzsimons before sustaining his debilitating injury.
As discussions surrounding the events of January 6 continue to shape the American political landscape, individuals like Aquilino Gonell bring their unique perspectives and experiences into the broader dialogue, shedding light on the complex path to closure and accountability in the wake of a historic challenge to democracy.