Biden to Honor Election Officials as Jan. 6 Anniversary Is Commemorated
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will commemorate the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, siege on the U.S. Capitol by awarding the Presidential Citizens Medal to a dozen individuals who resisted efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The honorees include Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police, election workers, and officials at the state and local level.
Biden will present the awards during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House beginning at about 2 p.m.
One of the nation’s highest civilian honors, the Presidential Citizens Medal is given to those who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will also be attending the event, which will have a decidedly bipartisan air.
Among those being honored are Rusty Bowers, the former Republican speaker of the Arizona House, and Al Schmidt, a Republican city commissioner on the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.
Democratic nominees include Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan secretary of state who supervised the extended process of counting votes in Detroit.
Georgia, another flashpoint in weeks after the 2020 election, will be represented by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who helped process ballots for the Fulton County, Georgia, elections board.
Despite their diligent efforts, Trump, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a conspiracy website called The Gateway Pundit, targeted them for abuse and accused them of manipulating ballots to favor Biden.
The president will also honor seven police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, including Brian Sicknick, who died of a stroke a day after the siege and later was laid in honor in the Capitol rotunda.
The other law enforcement honorees are:
Harry Dunn, a Capitol police officer who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, facing racial slurs and harassment from rioters.
Caroline Edwards was the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters on Jan. 6. Even after suffering a traumatic brain injury, Edwards worked to prevent rioters from entering the Capitol building.
Michael Fanone, who was injured defending the Capitol as a member of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Aquilino Gonell, a Capitol police sergeant who suffered injuries during the attack.
Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who is credited with diverting rioters from the floor of the Senate while members were still evacuating, and Daniel Hodges, a Metropolitan Police Department officer who was injured on the first day he was ever assigned to the Capitol.
Former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also hailed the efforts of the police and others during the siege, noting Friday that despite Trump’s refusal to intervene, “the Capitol Police … and an assortment of other brave first responders, drove back the assault.”
“Devoted maintenance staff went to work to clean and repair the Capitol. Most importantly, the House gathered that night to certify the election and to carry out its work for the people,” he said.
“Since then, Democrats and a handful of Republicans have come together to strengthen our democracy and to push for greater accountability,” Hoyer said.
“Last month, we enacted legislation to reaffirm that the vice president’s role in the counting of electoral votes is purely ceremonial,” he continued. “This measure dispels the ambiguity that the insurrectionists wrongly used to justify their attempted coup.
“Additionally, I appreciate the dogged efforts of the bipartisan House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol to uncover the truth behind that day and to identify those responsible for undermining our democracy,” Hoyer said.
Throughout the day on Friday, a number of other public officials commented on the solemnity of what has become an annual observance.
“The Jan. 6 insurrection shook our republic to its core — and left behind physical scars and emotional trauma on members of our congressional community and our country that endure to this day,” said former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a written statement.
“What was a day of unimaginable horror was also a moment of extraordinary heroism, as courageous law enforcement officers stared down the insurrectionists to protect the Capitol. We are forever grateful to these heroes, and we continue to pray for the fallen, the afflicted and their families,” she continued, noting the “violent assault did not deter us from upholding our oath.
“On Jan. 6, we returned to the chamber and certified the election results to prove to the world that our Democracy stood strong. And with patriotism and persistence, the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack worked on a bipartisan basis to uncover the truth of that dark day,” Pelosi said.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, was nothing less than a “coup attempt” and “a disgusting assault on the most fundamental tenet of our democracy: free and fair elections.”
“As we reflect on this dark day in American history, we must remember the bravery and sacrifice of the members of law enforcement who protected our nation and who continue to diligently investigate and hold the perpetrators of this attack to account,” Holder said.
“Although the American people soundly rejected a great many of the anti-democratic candidates across the country at the ballot box this past election, we must recognize that the dangerous undercurrents that fueled the Jan. 6 coup attempt are far from gone,” he continued.
“It is up to us — the American people — to determine the legacy of that dark January day,” Holder said. “There are choices to be made. My hope is that the 2022 elections marked the beginning of a strong movement to protect and strengthen our democracy for years to come. Every generation of Americans has been called upon to defend our democracy. Now it is our time.”
Biden himself has repeatedly warned that the passions that drove the events that transpired on the day of the siege continue to pose a significant threat to American democracy.
“For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said during a ceremony at the Capitol on the first anniversary of the attacks.
He went on to promise he would allow “no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.”
At the Capitol Friday, Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Dean Phillips, D-Minn., will lead several of their colleagues in a commemoration of the siege just outside the Capitol in the area known as the House triangle.
In addition to remembering the sacrifices made that day, Gottheimer, Phillips and their colleagues will highlight how the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act — newly signed into law — will help preserve the integrity of our elections and protect democracy.