WASHINGTON — Top House and Senate leaders will present law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with Congressional Gold Medals on Tuesday, awarding them Congress’s highest honor nearly two years after fighting with supporters of former President Donald Trump in a brutal and bloody attack.
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. President Joe Biden said when signing the law last year that a medal would be placed in the Smithsonian Museum “so that all visitors can understand what happened that day.”
The ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda comes as Democrats, weeks away from losing their House majority, race to complete a nearly 18-month investigation into the insurgency. Democrats and two Republicans leading the probe have vowed to uncover details of the attack, which came as Trump tried to reverse his election loss and encouraged his supporters to ‘fight like hell’ at a rally just prior to Congressional certification.
The presentation of the medals will be one of the last ceremonial acts for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to leave the 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.”
“They allowed us to return to the Capitol,” and certify Biden’s presidency, she said then, “on that podium that night to show the world that our democracy had prevailed and that it had succeeded because of them. “.
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. Officers suffered physical injuries, including brain damage and other permanent 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 died by suicide in the days immediately following, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian 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, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will attend the ceremony and present the medals. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee are also expected.
The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, has been awarded by the legislature 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. »