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Tags: Capitol Breach | Congressional Gold Medal

Biden Signs Bill Awarding Medals to Jan. 6 First Responders

Biden Signs Bill Awarding Medals to Jan. 6 First Responders
(Getty)

Thursday, 05 August 2021 06:58 PM

President Joe Biden on Thursday offered “profound gratitude” to law enforcement officers who responded to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach as he signed legislation to award them Congressional Gold Medals for their service.

The president thanked the officers for saving the lives of members of Congress during those “tragic hours” of the attack seven months ago.

The medal is the highest honor Congress can bestow. Joined by members of Congress, law enforcement officers and the families of police who died following the attack, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held the formal signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.

Many officers were beaten and injured that day as rioters pushed past them to break into the Capitol and interrupt the certification of Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. Many of the intruders repeated Trump's claims about widespread election fraud as they hunted for lawmakers and tried to beat down the doors of the House chamber with lawmakers inside.

Some of the officers, including four who testified at a House hearing last week, have spoken openly about the lasting mental and physical scars.

“My fellow Americans, let’s remember what this was all about,” Biden said of the events that day. “It was a violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people, to seek power at all costs, to replace the ballot with brute force. To destroy, not to build. Without democracy, nothing is possible. With it, everything is.”

The Senate passed the legislation unanimously earlier this week. The new law will place the medals in four locations — Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. Biden said the medals will be at the Smithsonian “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.”

The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections. The House passed the bill in June, with 21 Republicans who have downplayed the 1/6 breach and voiced skepticism about Trump's role in it voting against passage.

Some critics and skeptics of the narrative about a violent siege have tried to rebrand the breach as a largely peaceful protest, even as law enforcement officers who responded that day have testified that there was violence that has taken a toll on them. The four officers who testified in the hearing last week said they'd had near-death experiences as intruders beat and crushed them on their way into the building.

Most House Republicans have staunchly opposed the Democrat-led panel, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed after Senate Republicans blocked the formation of a bipartisan commission. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has called the committee a “sham" and criticized Pelosi for rejecting two of the members he tried to appoint to the panel.

Instead, McCarthy and other Republican leaders withdrew all their appointments and have tried to pin blame for the breach on Pelosi, saying she was responsible for delays in military assistance that day.

Biden said at Thursday's ceremony that “we cannot allow history to be rewritten" and the officers' heroism cannot be forgotten.

“We have to understand what happened,” Biden said. "The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.”

At least nine people who were at the Capitol that day died during and after the rioting, 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 police officers died by suicide in the days that immediately followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.

Last week, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the Capitol had died by suicide. Officer Kyle DeFreytag was found dead on July 10 and Officer Gunther Hashida was found dead in his home Thursday. The circumstances that lead to their deaths are unknown.

“We are grieving as a department,” the police said in a statement.

In a ceremony to send the bill to the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Jan. 6 was “a moment, a day of extraordinary tragedy for our country” and praised the Capitol Police for their bravery and patriotism.

The Congressional Gold Medal has been handed out by the legislative branch 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 became a leading advocate for people struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and biker Greg LeMond.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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President Joe Biden on Thursday offered "profound gratitude" to law enforcement officers who responded to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach as he signed legislation to award them Congressional Gold Medals for their service.The president thanked the officers for saving the lives of...
Capitol Breach, Congressional Gold Medal
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2021-58-05
Thursday, 05 August 2021 06:58 PM
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