The violent scene on the west front of the Capitol captured in a photo taken on Jan. 6 by Shannon Stapleton of Reuters is haunting. In it you see the anguished face of D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone as he is swarmed by a mob of terrorists hellbent on overturning a free and fair election at the behest of a president who refused to accept defeat.

Fanone was mauled. He was tased so many times that he suffered a heart attack. He has said that he heard his potential murderers say, “Kill him with his own gun.” The father of four believes he was saved after he pleaded, “I’ve got kids.”

The chaotic scene, as revealed by his own body camera and as described in Molly Ball’s fantastic profile of Fanone in Time magazine, is horrific. Not only for its violence but also what that violence signified. American democracy was on the brink.

What is most ironic and jarring about the photo is the flag fluttering above Fanone. The one with the black-and-white stripes and thin blue line, a.k.a. the thin-blue-line flag. According to the Marshall Project, “Those who fly the flag have said it stands for solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a solemn tribute to fallen police officers.” Yet there’s the pro-police thin-blue-line flag being used as a weapon — against the police. Against Fanone.

(The Marshall Project also notes the banner has been adopted by white supremacists. Of course.)

That haunting photo encapsulates the outrage I feel at self-proclaimed pro-police patriots, these armchair law enforcement officers who were just fine with cops in riot gear brandishing military-grade weapons as they quashed peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the country. These are often the same people braying against the slogan “defund the police” without even bothering to attempt to understand what those words actually mean.

Fanone captured perfectly the hypocrisy of it all in his Time magazine interview. He said that the few Republican members of Congress who would meet with him used their support of law enforcement during BLM protests last year as a shield against his criticism that they were refusing to stand by police after the savage attacks they suffered on Jan. 6th.

“You guys don’t seem to have a problem when we’re kicking the sh-t out of Black people,” Fanone recalls saying. “But when we’re kicking the sh-t out of white people, uh-oh, that’s an issue.”

Quite a withering assessment from a self-described redneck who voted for Trump. But, Fanone told Time, the horror he endured opened his eyes to the truth.

And the truth is this: Republicans and conservatives who howl about “law and order” never meant it as a statement of universal principle. It was “law and order” for the Black and the Brown. The other. Get in the way of the straight, White, cisgender male’s (and female’s) divine right to riot and to act a fool, to push the prerogatives of an aggrieved and shrinking White majority or to overthrow the government and the message appears to be: “You get what’s coming to you.”

Officer Fanone and the other men and women who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6 deserve so much better.

In a Rose Garden ceremony on Thursday, President Biden signed into law the bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who not only defended the Capitol but also defended democracy. There are actually four medals that will be on public display as a reminder of the bravery and the sacrifices made in defense of democracy.

“These officers are heroes and these officers are patriots and they deserve today, and every day, this honor,” Vice President Harris said in a statement of truth far too many refuse to recognize.

Police aren’t perfect. And because they wield the power of life and death with the backing of the state, we have every right to hold them to a higher standard and to demand that they be held accountable when they get it tragically wrong. But this doesn’t blind me to the importance of law enforcement or their countless acts of heroism.

That’s why I thank Fanone and fellow Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges and U.S. Capitol Police Officers Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell for their commitment to ensuring that America knows the truth of what happened on Jan. 6.

To the family of Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and to the families of Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Metropolitan Police Officers Gunther Hashida, Kyle DeFreytag and Jeffrey Smith — all of whom took their own lives after defending the Capitol — the nation grieves with you and will never forget their heroism.

Anyone unwilling to recognize their valor is delusional. Anyone willing to pretend that Jan. 6 was anything but an attempt to overthrow our government is deplorable.