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January 6 officers were awarded Congressional Gold Medals; some families seem to snub Republican leaders

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Top lawmakers on Tuesday presented police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with Congressional Gold Medals — the highest honor Congress can bestow — nearly two years after the attack.

For many honored officers, the rotunda ceremony marked the first time since Jan. 6 that they have returned to the Capitol complex.

“Many of us still carry the physical, mental and emotional scars after this mob of thousands launched a violent assault in an attempt to stop the counting of the ballots,” said Chief Robert Contee of the Department of the Metropolitan Police. “The sound of metal poles and other objects hitting bodies, helmets and shields can still resonate loudly – the air, still thick with bear spray and other chemicals, making it difficult for our officers to see and breathe – the calls for your fellow officer to be hurt as loud as the day it happened.”

Police officers stand for the U.S. national anthem during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring U.S. Capitol Police and those who protected the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in the rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, December 6, 2022.

Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

“But there is hope,” Contee added, speaking directly to the dozens of police officers in attendance, “because adversity breeds growth, and we continue to grow together and deliver excellence to our community. “.

“Defending the United States Capitol is something you will carry with you for the rest of your career and your life. Regardless of your political affiliation, you responded as you do every day: without hesitation, with courage and an unwavering duty to defend your oath,” Contee said. “You didn’t give up and you didn’t give in.”

PHOTO: Police defend the US Capitol as supporters of President Donald Trump breach security in Washington on January 06, 2021.

Police defend the US Capitol as supporters of President Donald Trump breach security in Washington on January 06, 2021.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, FILE

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in one of her final ceremonial leadership acts, was the first to deliver remarks from the four top congressional leaders, all of whom were in attendance. She recalled Jan. 6 — in which a mob swarmed law enforcement and stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Donald Trump’s election defeat from being certified — as a “day of horror and grief”, but also an “extraordinary moment of heroism”.

“Exactly 23 months ago, our nation suffered the most staggering assault on democracy since the Civil War,” Pelosi said. “Watching the deadly violence and despicable bigotry, our law enforcement officers bravely stood in the breach, ensuring that democracy survives this dark day. So, on behalf of the United States Congress and of the American people, I have the honor to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police, and all the heroes of January 6.”

United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said for his officers it was a day “defined by chaos, courage, tragic loss and resolve.”

“I especially want to recognize our officers who made the ultimate sacrifice: Officer Brian Sicknick, Officer Howard Liebengood. Now I also want to recognize Officer Billy Evans who was lost in the line of duty on April 2, 2021, when he was attacked outside the Capitol by a single assailant,” Manger said, referring to three police officers who died in the days and months after Jan. 6. “I appreciate that Congress recognizes the courage, strength and resilience of every member of the United States Capitol Police – sworn and civilian.”

United States Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger receives a medal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring those who protected the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, on December 6, 2022.

United States Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger receives a medal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Capitol Police United States, Metropolitan Washington Police and others who protected the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 at the United States Capitol. rotunda in Washington, December 6, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Contee, on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, thanked “everyone who voted for this recognition”. While the Senate passed legislation last year to award the medals unanimously with a voice vote, 21 House Republicans voted against it.

The ceremony came as Democrats raced to complete a nearly 18-month investigation by a House select committee investigating the attack amid talks of criminal referrals to the Justice Department before Republicans regain a majority in the House in January.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, the likely incoming Speaker of the House, has signaled that he does not want the select committee to be kept in place and, instead, hold hearings into the security breaches that led to the breach.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, United States Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pray during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring law enforcement officers who defended the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021, in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, on December 6, 2022.

Alex Brandon/AP

McCarthy on Tuesday joined the call for “hero” officers.

“Heroes who uphold the code to protect and serve, heroes who do the noble work – too many people take that for granted – but days like today force us to realize how much we owe that thin blue line. We stand for always owes them their heroism,” McCarthy said.

Gladys Sicknick, Brian Sicknick’s mother, appeared to ignore McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a line of handshakes with congressional leaders. Gladys Sicknick had lobbied Congress to pass legislation for a select bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6, which Senate Republicans ultimately blocked.

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of ousted Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, walks past Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy without shaking hands during a handover ceremony of the Congressional Gold Medal on Capitol Hill, Dec.  6, 2022.

Gladys Sicknick, the mother of deceased U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, walks past Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy without shaking their hands during a ceremony to presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal for officers who defended the Capitol on January 6, at the Capitol Rotunda on December 6, 2022 in Washington.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

McConnell, in his remarks, called Capitol law enforcement officers “familiar colleagues … the first faces we see on our way each morning and our last goodbyes each evening.”

“Because you honored your oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, we were able to honor ours,” McConnell told the officers present. “This is a reality that was made particularly clear 23 months ago, but it is true every day. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for saving our country. Thank you for not only being our friends, but our heroes.”

PHOTO: The Congressional Gold Medals, honoring the United States Capitol Police, Washington, DC Metropolitan Police and others who protected the Capitol on January 6, 2021, are displayed before a ceremony at the Capitol, on December 6, 2022, in Washington.

Congressional Gold Medals, honoring the United States Capitol Police, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police and others who protected the Capitol on January 6, 2021, are displayed ahead of a ceremony at the Capitol, Dec. 6, 2022, in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

When President Joe Biden signed legislation to grant the medals last year, he said one would be placed in the Smithsonian Museum “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.” Medals will also be placed at the Capitol, United States Capitol Police Headquarters and the Metropolitan Police Department.

“We cannot allow history to be rewritten,” Biden said at a Rose Garden ceremony last summer. “We cannot allow the heroism of these officers to be forgotten. We must understand what happened – the honest and unvarnished truth. We must face it.”

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ABC News

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