Extremism is Laying Groundwork for Another January 6th

by Aquilino Gonell

With Trump v. United States and Fischer v. United States, the Supreme Court has effectively given MAGA extremists their seal of approval. 

On January 6th, 2021, I risked my life defending the U.S. Capitol from rioters and insurrectionists. They climbed the steps of the Capitol carrying weapons, symbols of hate, Confederate and American flags. The insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol that day are not “victims” or “hostages,” nor should they be glorified as “patriots” and “warriors.” They forced their way through the tunnels and barricades with malice and clear intentions of disrupting the certification of the 2020 election results all because one man would not accept the outcome of a free and fair election. Despite the fact that I suited up and stood my ground to defend every Member of Congress, Speaker Mike Johnson and Republicans have been attempting to rewrite history and avoid accountability for trying to overthrow American democracy. I am here to set the record straight: January 6th was an attack on our democracy, and MAGA extremism remains the greatest threat to our democracy. The latest rulings by the Supreme Court underscore that point.

The decisions from the Supreme Court not only undermine the ability of the Justice Department to hold violent insurrectionists accountable but also help shield former President Trump from prosecution for crimes committed as President. The majority set a dangerous precedent that will encourage MAGA extremists to continue their attacks on our elections and democratic institutions. These rulings are a slap in the face to officers like me who defended our democracy on January 6th, an insult to the families who lost loved ones as a result of that day, and the millions of Americans who believe that no one is above the law. 

Around 70% of Americans do not think that U.S. Presidents should have immunity for actions taken while in office. Additionally, nearly 60% of Americans believe that former President Donald Trump is guilty on all 34 counts in his election interference trial. 51% believe that he should end his 2024 presidential campaign, and 49% believe he should go to prison for these crimes. It underscores the extent of MAGA extremists’ willingness to thwart democracy. In supporting the Supreme Court’s latest rulings, MAGA House Republicans are further eroding the foundations of our democracy and sowing doubt about future elections.

The decisions from the Supreme Court are outrageous and unprecedented, but, sadly, unsurprising. For the past four years, extremists led by Speaker Mike Johnson have defended the disgraced former president, protecting insurrectionists, and minimizing what happened on January 6th to push their draconian agenda. In fact, Speaker Johnson was behind the false legal theory that inspired the insurrection, and he voted against investigating the events of that day. He’s continued to foment attempts to subvert the rule of law. With Johnson’s blessing, MAGA House Republicans have weaponized the Big Lie and pushed to shift all state charges against former President Trump to federal court (a blatant attempt to overturn his 34 felony convictions), and defund prosecutors investigating him. Speaker Johnson even openly expressed that he expected the Supreme Court to “step in” to overturn Trump’s 34 felony convictions. 

Instead of denouncing former President Trump’s visit to the U.S. Capitol, returning to the scene of the crime, House Republicans embraced him and gave him a hero’s welcome– something they have not done and refuse to do for the officers who protect them from Trump’s violent mob and continue to defend them every day. It was disappointing, demoralizing, and heart wrenching seeing them desecrating the sacrifices made to keep them safe. Through these actions and more, Republicans laid the groundwork for this week’s extreme Supreme Court decisions.

What must never be lost on us is the hypocrisy of MAGA House Republicans. Though they claim to support “law and order,” they refuse to stand up for the law enforcement officers who risked bodily harm to protect them from the attacking mob on January 6th. Despite a law requiring a plaque honoring the officers who defended the Capitol be installed in the building by March 2023, MAGA House Republicans have defied their own laws and refused to put it up. They have shown that they are more preoccupied with maintaining power than upholding their oaths of office. Though it may seem like an overwhelming challenge, we must continue to hold Mike Johnson and this MAGA Congress accountable for their ongoing threats to our democracy. 

There is clearly so much to do to restore faith in our democracy. However, one step that we can all take is calling on our lawmakers in Congress to commit to peacefully certifying the results of this year’s election to prevent another January 6th. I did not stop defending democracy in Iraq twenty years ago nor on January 6th. I have no intention to let up now. Despite the setback from the Supreme Court, we all have an opportunity to defend democracy and promote the peaceful transfer of power, so that we never see another January 6th again. 


Sergeant Gonell is a Courage for America Councilmember, former Capitol Police Officer, and immigrant from the Dominican Republic who risked his life defending the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The injuries he suffered that day forced him to medically retire from the police force. Since then, he has testified before Congress about his experience that day, been interviewed and featured in the news, and has also published a book titled American Shield: The Immigrant Sergeant who Defended Democracy.