DC mayor, police and fire chiefs praise first responders on Jan. 6 riot anniversary

One year after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which saw the seat of democracy stormed by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, D.C.’s mayor, police chief and fire chief praised the bravery of the District’s first responders.

Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said during a briefing Thursday that he wanted to give “a huge, huge thank you” to those who responded to the deadly crisis.

“I do not think it is an understatement to say or to speak about the work of our first responders, D.C. Fire, Metropolitan Police Department officers … other police departments that responded on that day,” Contee said.

“There was a lot of pivoting going on, a lot of acting in spaces where we normally don’t act, you know, the fire department, for example, they normally don’t go into hot zones until things are safe.”

He said D.C.’s firefighters were doing things they don’t normally do and that D.C. police is not normally responsible for the Capitol.

“But our officers were there on the front line, protecting our city, but more importantly, protecting the democracy of this country,” Contee said.

He echoed D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s words that a peaceful transfer of power is critical.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize how vulnerable we can be in that space. And to make sure that something like this never ever, ever happens, again,” Contee said.

D.C.’s police chief also said his officers are stationed across the city and prepared to handle anything that could arise Thursday in light of the anniversary of the insurrection.

And he made a plea to the public for information about the person who planted “not one but two real pipe bombs” in the nation’s capital ahead of the insurrection.

“This individual has not been captured, this individual has not been held accountable for his or her actions on this particular day,” Contee said.

“And we want to get that information, or keep it out there in the forefront with community members. We are still looking for this information … over 700 arrests that have occurred so far with this investigation have been a result of community members all across our country that have come forward with tidbits of information that have led to the arrest of hundreds of individuals who are responsible for the insurrection.”

D.C. Fire Chief John Donnelly said Jan. 6 “was a remarkable day for all of us,” adding “within 20, 30 minutes of recognizing a problem early on, as the Capitol was being breached, all of our leadership was together.”

He called it an honor to be a part of that leadership and “an amazing thing to watch.”

“For our members who responded, as the police chief said, they were in a way different spot than they’d ever been in,” Donnelly said. “And across the city, it was remarkable to see our people work, our people come back to work to grow the force to protect the community.”

“It is an honor to lead these people, but they deserve every bit of thanks and support that we can give them.”

Bowser said the Capitol riot highlighted D.C.’s need for statehood, since the District mayor is not in control of the city’s National Guard.

“I continue to call, like all Washingtonians, that the Congress must take action to advance D.C. statehood and other voter protections,” Bowser said.

“I felt more than any other time how vulnerable our nation was when there was an outgoing president and a yet-to-be-established new government. And we know the issue of the National Guard is one that is much more than academic, it became clear to the nation unfortunately, the Congress hasn’t taken the appropriate action to make sure that the D.C. mayor has control of the D.C. National Guard.”

As if to underscore D.C.’s lack of autonomy, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — whose home state is more than 1,000 miles from the District — said he plans to introduce a bill to stop the recently passed vaccine mandate for D.C. students from going into effect.

Bowser called it “another infringement” and added that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s statehood bill, which she has moved through the House, “needs to move through the Senate.”

“Until then, we are going to have these types of ‘high profile’ issue items that members who won’t do the same things in their own jurisdictions try to do to us,” the mayor said.

Norton said Thursday that she plans to defeat Cruz’s effort.

“Sen. Cruz, who is a frequent violator of D.C. home rule, despite professing to support local control of local affairs, thinks he knows best how to keep D.C. students and schools safe,” Norton said in a statement.

“The duly elected D.C. Council represents the nearly 700,000 D.C. residents, not Sen. Cruz. I will defeat his latest attempt to abuse Congress’ authority over D.C., just as I have defeated all of his prior attempts.”

Norton said Cruz is the fourth member of Congress to try to block a D.C. vaccine policy this session.

Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tried and failed to block a D.C. bill that permits minors to receive a vaccine without parental consent from taking effect.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) has introduced a bill to prevent D.C. from requiring someone to show documentation of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entering a building, facility or other venue in D.C.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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