Officers who defended Capitol from Trump mob on Jan. 6 honored as heroes with Congressional Gold Medals

WASHINGTON– The hailed law enforcement heroes who defended the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were honored with Congressional Gold Medals and praised for safeguarding democracy on Tuesday as they repelled a brutal and bloody attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opened the emotional ceremony, which eased tensions in the stately Capitol Rotunda, which was overrun that day as Trump supporters battled police, broke into the building and stormed the halls to gather around Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s election.

“January 6th was a day of horror and heartbreak; it is also a moment of extraordinary heroism, staring down deadly violence and despicable bigotry,” Pelosi said.

At the presentation of Congress’ highest honor, Pelosi commended the heroes for “bravely answering the call to defend our democracy during one of the nation’s darkest hours.”

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said: “Thank you for having our backs. Thank you for saving our country.”

However, showing the raw political and emotional consequences of the violent uprising and its aftermath, representatives of fallen officer Brian Sicknick’s family declined to shake hands with Republican leaders, snubbing McConnell’s outstretched palm.

Sicknick’s mother had personally lobbied House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders for the formation of an independent commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol, or, failing that, to assist the House investigative panel. Both McConnell and McCarthy voted against the independent commission, and McCarthy has railed against the House panel as a partisan political exercise.

MORE | Pence says he “cannot explain” what Trump did on Jan. 6

To recognize the hundreds of officers who were at the Capitol on January 6, the medals will be placed in four locations — US Capitol Police Headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. When the law was signed last year, Biden said one would be placed in the Smithsonian Museum “so that all visitors can understand what happened that day.”

The city’s police chief, Robert Contee, said for some officers Tuesday was their first visit to the Capitol since that horrific day, a scene filled with the clinking noise of metal rods being wielded as weapons “the air is still thick” with chemical sprays as officers were attacked by mobs of Trump supporters.

“A lot of us still carry the mental, physical and emotional scars,” Contee said of the city’s police officers who rushed in as the U.S. Capitol Police were overrun by the crowd.

“Exhausted and bruised, it was your blood, sweat and tears that scarred this terrain,” he said.

US Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger called it “a day like no other in our nation’s history.” And for us, it was a day of chaos, courage and tragic loss.”

The ceremony at the Capitol comes as Democrats, just weeks from losing their majority in the House of Representatives, battle to conclude a nearly 18-month investigation into the uprising.

With no support from the GOP leadership, Democrats led the bipartisan investigation with two Republicans and vowed to uncover the details of the attack, which took place as Trump attempted to reverse his election defeat and encouraged his supporters to protest at a rally just before the “hell fight.” to fight congressional certification.

The presentation of the medals is among Pelosi’s final ceremonial acts as she prepares to step down from leadership.

“Your bravery that day is legendary,” Pelosi told officers assembled Tuesday.

More than 100 officers who fought off the rioters suffered serious injuries. As the mob of Trump supporters pushed past them into the Capitol, police were beaten with American flags and their own guns, dragged down the stairs, sprayed with chemicals, and trampled and crushed by the crowd. Officers suffered physical injuries, including lifelong brain injuries, and many subsequently struggled to work due to the trauma they were in.

Four officials who testified at a House hearing last year spoke candidly about the lingering mental and physical scars and some detailed near-death experiences.

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges described foaming at the mouth, bleeding and screams as the rioters tried to gouge out his eye and crush him between two heavy doors.

Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased while being branded a traitor to my country”.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said a large group of people shouted the N-word at him as he tried to stop them from entering the chamber of the house.

At least nine people who were in the Capitol that day died during and after the riots, including a woman who was shot by police while attempting to enter the House of Representatives chamber and three other Trump supporters who received medical suffered emergencies. Two police officers died by suicide in the days immediately following.

Sicknick collapsed and later died after one of the rioters sprayed him with a chemical. A coroner determined that he died of natural causes.

A few months after the attack, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the riot had died by suicide. The circumstances leading to her death were unknown.

The house vote in June 2021 to award the medals received broad support from both parties. But 21 House Republicans voted against it — lawmakers who had downplayed the violence and remained loyal to Trump. The Senate passed the bill by ballot, with no Republican objections.

As the US Army Band sings “God Bless America,” the ceremony could be the last to mark the events of January 6, 2021 for some time, as Republicans in the majority of the House of Representatives are unlikely to see a tradition of commemoration will continue this day.

Most House Republicans declined to confirm Biden’s pick. Some newly elected Republican lawmakers were in the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Pelosi, McConnell, McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer presented the medals. McCarthy, who is in line to become speaker of the House if Republicans take control, linked the Jan. 6 “heroes” to others in law enforcement.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that Congress can bestow, has been awarded since 1776. Previous recipients have included George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and Robert Frost.

At the signing of the bill in the White House last year, Biden said the heroism of the officers could not be forgotten.

The uprising was a “violent attempt to overthrow the will of the American people” and Americans needed to understand what happened, he said. “The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Officers who defended Capitol from Trump mob on Jan. 6 honored as heroes with Congressional Gold Medals

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