The powerful image of police being sworn in to testify before Congress on the events of Jan. 6 are familiar to the public. Their accounts of the violence they encountered at the hands of the furious mob are well-documented.
But members of “DC’s Bravest,” the name used for members of the DC Fire and EMS on its website, were also in the middle of the rioting crowd. They were called to help the injured — whether police officers, or members of the mob attacking police and smashing their way into the U.S. Capitol building.
And now a department-produced documentary shows the role played by firefighters and paramedics on Jan. 6.
DC Fire and EMS spokesperson Jennifer Donelan said the videotaped accounts by members of the department started as part of a “hot-wash,” an after-action report. But Crystal Mullings, a public affairs specialist with the department, said she soon found she had a lot more in the hours of video she made.
Fire and EMS workers often had to fight their way through the crowds to tend to the wounded, whether they were members of the U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. police or the rioters, Mullings said. “Our department knew we needed to express what we did to help treat all those people — the people with or without a badge.”
D.C. Fire and EMS crews recalled the difficulty of coordinating how to get to wounded patients. The people who needed help included those who needed their eyes washed after exposure to pepper and bear spray and Ashley Babbitt, the woman who was fatally shot while clambering through a smashed window.
The crowds were alternately welcoming and hostile. “You know you had some members who were called racial slurs and some members who were thanked for their service,” Mullings said.
Amy Mauro, chief of staff with DC Fire and EMS, recalled how the events of the day unfolded — from the routine preparations for a large rally and demonstration to the violence that spiraled out of control.
“The worst part of that day for me was standing in the Operations Center and hearing the report of a shooting on the House floor. It just felt pretty devastating,” Mauro said.
Mauro was asked about how members of the department, like their counterparts in regional police departments, feel about staffing up for future protests and demonstrations, including a proposed event by supporters of those arrested in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“They’re resilient, you know. They still come back to work every day and that’s what they do. So, I think we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way,” Mauro said.