Capitol Police Officer James Blassingame is one of two officers who filed suit against Donald Trump back in March for the physical and emotional injuries he suffered during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. That suit, which came the same week that Trump claimed his supporters had been just “hugging and kissing the police” during the attack, stated that Blassingame was suffering long-term physical effects and depression from the events of that day.
On Wednesday, a PBS interview with Blassingame made clear what happened on that day and spelled out exactly why, even months after the event, the officer had been unable to engage in many of his former duties and why, as his lawsuit stated, he is ”haunted by the memory of being attacked” during the Trump-inspired insurrection.
Right from the start, Blassingame makes it clear exactly what kind of “hugging and kissing” the white supremacist mob was providing. “I have never been called a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to my face in 39 years,” said the officer. “Might have been called a (EXPLETIVE DELETED), but I have never been called one to my face. That streak ended on January 6. I was called a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I was called a traitor, I was called various epithets.”
In case there’s any question of exactly which expletive has been deleted above, Officer Blassingame is Black.
On the day of Jan. 6, Blassingame had been with the Capitol Police for 17 years and was serving as the Training Programs Manager. In all those years on the force he had never pulled his weapon, but he says he considered it on that day. “The only reason why I didn't do it was because the mentality was, this is a four-alarm blaze,” said Blassingame. “And if I pull my gun out and start shooting, I'm throwing kerosene on it. Maybe there's a chance I survive if I don't pull my weapon, but, if I do, I'm probably not going to make it out of here alive. You don't have enough bullets.”
Those thoughts came, according to The Washington Post’s reporting on Blassingame’s lawsuit, the Trump mob “forced its way over and past the plaintiffs and their fellow officers, pursuing and attacking them inside and outside the United States Capitol, and causing the injuries.”
In addition to his 17 years with the Capitol Police, Blassingame is also a former U.S. Marine. However, that experience did not prepare him for the violence he experienced at the hands of his fellow Americans. After being pushed back from a position outside the Capitol, Blassingame moved to join other officers defending a corridor within the building. It was actually inside on the first floor the Capitol that Blassingame was surrounded by “enraged” Trump supporters, who threw a collection of items at the officers before rushing forward to assault them with fists and flagpoles. Finally, a wave of insurrectionists shoved Blassingame away from the other officers, slamming him against a stone pillar, injuring his back and causing a concussion. During this attack, Blassingame says he lost count of how many times he was called an (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
“To have to see these people every day, and they don't have our back.”
But the most painful portion of Blassingame’s interview might not be when he discusses his injuries, or even the vile racism of the Trump crowd. It’s when he talks about the Republican legislators who he put himself on the line to protect that day. What’s really haunting Blassingame is that even while he’s still suffering from the physical attack he suffered, Republicans are trying to make it seem as if nothing happened.
“Something as simple as a commission being passed or trying to take that on, at the end of the day, as bad as it was, like, we did our job,” said Blassingame. “Like, no member of Congress was harmed, you know?”
But that commission was voted down in the Senate by Republicans who filibustered to prevent any investigation into the events of Jan. 6. Now those same Republicans can smugly walk the halls Blassingame and others defended without concern.
“To have to see these people every day, and they don't have our back. Something as simple as just trying to find out what happened, so that it doesn't happen again, because my fear is this was the tip of the iceberg.
You have a lot of people that are radicalized, that this is exactly what they wanted to do. And it's — by there being no accountability, it's emboldening them.”
And when it comes to the casual dismissal of Jan. 6 by Republicans in Congress who are determined to brush the violence of that day aside with claims that it was “not an armed insurrection,” Blassingame has a message that should be repeated: “I would think certain things are above politics,” said the officer. “I mean, it's deplorable to say — as bad as it looks on film, believe me, it was much worse. They can stitch together as much footage as they want to, but I'm telling you, and anybody in that was in that scrum will tell you, it was much worse in person than anything you're ever going to see on film.”
The biggest concern Blassingame expresses again and again is not about his own injuries, but about how the efforts of Republicans to dismiss the events of Jan. 6 will have just one outcome: a repeat.
“For the narrative to be modify or changed, so that it's trying to make it seem something other than what it was, it's disheartening, especially — we go to work every day and we have to protect members of Congress. And for them to come and say, thank you for your service, and appreciate what you do, but you don't, because this is very simple, just having a commission to find out what happened, so this doesn't happen again.”