President Biden on Friday spotlighted the bravery and service of election workers and law enforcement officials who stood up for democracy around the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as he marked two years since the insurrection.
He awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, the country’s second-highest civilian honor, to 14 people, including election workers, state officials and several law enforcement officers who were heralded for their actions in the aftermath of the attack, when rioters descended on the Capitol to try to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. The attack briefly stopped the certification and led to the deaths of multiple law enforcement officers and one civilian who stormed the building.
“History will remember your names, they’ll remember your courage, they’ll remember your bravery, they’ll remember your extraordinary commitments to your fellow Americans,” Biden said at the event.
He noted that all Americans watched the insurrection and continued to do so repeatedly afterwards and also watched the awardees testify before the Jan. 6 House panel. Biden highlighted each honoree individually, and he reiterated his belief that democracy is fragile and must be protected by members of both parties.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say America owes you, owes you all a debt of gratitude,” he said.
Attendees of the event in the East Room of the White House included family members of the recipients, Capitol Police officers and police law enforcement officers from D.C. and Arlington County.
Among the recipients are several Capitol Police officers, former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
Biden called Bowers, “a demonstration to any young man and woman looking to enter politics about what integrity is all about.” Bowers refused pressure to decertify the 2020 election results in Arizona.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died from a stroke the day after Jan. 6, received the award posthumously.
“He lost his life after protecting the citadel of democracy,” Biden said, thanking Sicknick’s family for being there.
The White House announced on Friday, a day after the other recipients were announced, that late law enforcement officers Howard Liebengood of US Capitol Police and Jeffrey Smith of DC Metropolitan Police would receive the award posthumously.
The president also honored the late Capitol police officer Billy Evans, who died months after Jan. 6 when he was hit by a car at a checkpoint outside the Capitol.
Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who diverted a group of rioters heading for the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, received the medal Friday. Goodman has been celebrated for confronting the rioters and leading them into another direction while senators inside the chamber were being evacuated.
“On Jan. 6, he risked his own safety to distract a charging group of insurrectionists,” Biden said of Goodman.
Biden recognized another recipient, Michael Fanone, a former Metropolitan Police officer who was on the front lines defending the Capitol as rioters violently clashed with law enforcement.
“He was beaten, beaten, not pushed around, beaten… called a traitor as the mob shouted, kill him, kill him with his own gun. But he defended our democracy with absolute courage,” Biden said
And, he read a comment from Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who is recovering was cancer treatment and couldn’t attend the event, honoring Capitol police officer Harry Dunn. Raskin served on the House panel that investigated the events of Jan. 6.
Biden recognized Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who was knocked unconscious on Jan. 6, as well as Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. All three of them testified last year before the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Bowers was also among the witnesses.
“Ruby and Shaye, you don’t deserve what happened to you,” the president said.
Edwards compared the scene that day to a war zone, while Freeman and Moss told the panel about the harassment they endured after then-President Trump and his allies spread conspiracy theories about them.
The president has repeatedly invoked the attack on the Capitol as a dark day in history, and he has warned the public against those trying to minimize or erase it.
“We face an inflection point in our nations’ history,” Biden said Friday. “On Jan. 6, it’s a reminder that there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy.”
Biden marked the first anniversary of the riot from the Capitol last year by calling out former President Trump and his supporters for attempting to rewrite history and minimize the seriousness of what happened that day when scores of Trump supporters violently clashed with law enforcement and stormed the Capitol.
No members of Congress were present for the event. The anniversary comes during a chaotic week for House Republicans, who are divided over who should serve as their next Speaker.
Jan. 6 Capitol riot