By MARY CLARE JALONICK, FARNOUSH AMIRI and LISA MASCARO
WASHINGTON (AP) — Law enforcement officers who defended the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were honored Tuesday with congressional gold medals, hailed as “heroes” for securing democracy when they fought off a brutal and bloody attack by supporters of the then president. Donald Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened an emotional ceremony, tensions still high in the stately Capitol rotunda, which was overrun that day as Trump supporters stalked the halls in an attempt to prevent Congress de certifier l’élection de Joe Biden.
“January 6 was a day of horror and heartbreak; it is also a moment of extraordinary heroism – in the face of murderous violence and despicable bigotry,” Pelosi said.
In presenting Congress’s highest honor, Pelosi commended the heroes for “valiantly answering the call to defend our democracy in one of the nation’s darkest hours.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Thank you for supporting us. Merci d’avoir sauvé notre pays. Thank you for being not only our friends, but also our heroes.
But showing the raw political and emotional fallout from the insurgency and its aftermath, representatives of one of the medal’s recipients – the family of deceased officer Brian Sicknick – refused to shake hands with Republican leaders, snubbing la paume tendue de McConnell.
To recognize the hundreds of officers who were on Capitol Hill on January 6, the medals will be placed in four locations – at United States Capitol Police Headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. Signing the legislation last year, Biden said one will be placed in the Smithsonian museum “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.”
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said for some officers Tuesday was the first time they had visited the Capitol since that horrific day, a scene filled with the clanking sound of metal-steel flag poles brandished as weapons, “always look thick” with chemical sprays as officers were assaulted by crowds of Trump supporters.
“Many of us still carry mental, physical and emotional scars,” Contee said.
“It was your blood, your sweat and your tears that marked these grounds,” he said.
Contee said the medal for the city police officers who rushed to help their Capitol Police allies defend the dome that day was symbolic of their “contributions not only to Washington, D.C., but to the entire country.” January 6th”.
United States Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger called it “an unprecedented day in the history of our nation. And for us. It was a day marked by chaos, courage and tragic loss.
The ceremony on Capitol Hill comes as Democrats, weeks away from losing their House majority, race to complete a nearly 18-month investigation into the insurgency.
Without the support of the GOP leadership, Democrats and just two Republicans led the investigation and pledged to uncover details of the attack, which came as Trump tried to reverse his election loss and cheered on his supporters. to “fight like hell” at a rally just before. la certification du Congrès.
The medal presentation is among Pelosi’s final ceremonial acts as she prepares to step down from leadership. When the bill passed the House more than a year ago, she said law enforcement officers across the city stood up for the Capitol because they were “the type of Americans who have heard and answered the call to serve, putting country above themselves.”
Dozens of officers who fought off the rioters were seriously injured. As the crowd of Trump supporters passed them and entered the Capitol, police were beaten with American flags and their own weapons, dragged down the stairs, sprayed with chemicals, and trampled and crushed by the crowd. The officers suffered physical injuries, including brain damage and others with lifelong effects, and many found it difficult to work afterwards because they were so traumatized.
Four officers who testified at a House hearing last year spoke openly about lasting mental and physical scarring and some detailed near-death experiences.
Metropolitan Police officer Daniel Hodges described foaming at his mouth, bleeding and screaming as rioters tried to gouge out his eye and smash him between two heavy doors. Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he had been “caught, beaten, tasered, while being called 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 block them from entering the House chamber.
At least nine people who were in the Capitol that day died during and after the riots, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies. Two officers killed themselves in the days immediately following, and a third, Sicknick, collapsed and later died after one of the rioters sprayed him with a chemical. A medical examiner determined that he died of natural causes.
Several months after the attack, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of its officers who had responded to the insurgency had died by suicide. The circumstances that led to their death were unknown.
The June 2021 vote in the House to award the medals won broad support from both parties. But 21 House Republicans voted against — lawmakers who had played down the violence and remained loyal to Trump. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections.
Pelosi, McConnell, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attended the ceremony and awarded medals.
The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, has been awarded since 1776. Previous recipients include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and Robert Frost. In recent years, Congress has awarded the medals to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who has become a leading advocate for people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and biker Greg LeMond .
Signing the bill at the White House last year, Biden said the heroism of the officers could not be forgotten.
The insurgency was a “violent attempt to overthrow the will of the American people”, and Americans need to understand what happened, he said. “The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it. »