President Joe Biden marked two years since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by honoring the work of police officers who defended the building and state officials who resisted efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
During an event Friday at the East Room of the White House, Biden awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to more than a dozen people, including family of late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and six other police officers.
Those individuals helped stop an attack on America’s democratic system of government, Biden said, when thousands of rioters stormed the Capitol in a deadly attack during the joint session of Congress that has since resulted in hundreds of criminal charges.
“History will remember your names, remember your courage, remember your bravery, remember your extraordinary commitments to your fellow Americans,” Biden said.
The actions of officers during the attack, the first time that violence interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes in the nation’s history, featured prominently in Biden’s speech. He pointed to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from the Senate chamber after they broke into the building.
Biden already signed a law awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who protected the Capitol that day, but Friday’s ceremony honored individual officers. Several of them had testified before the House select committee investigating the attack, including Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell.
Gonell thought, “This is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance,” he told the committee after the attack.
Biden also honored Republican former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Republican former Philadelphia election official Al Schmidt and election officials who resisted efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
During his speech, Biden said that “our democracy was attacked” and the efforts were “fueled by lies about the 2020 election,” but he did not mention Trump himself.
Trump’s actions after the 2020 election, such as pressuring election officials to toss results in states he lost and urging supporters to march on the Capitol the morning of Jan. 6, have featured prominently in investigations like the House select committee that probed the attack. The Justice Department recently handed off a probe into Trump’s involvement in the attack to Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith after Trump announced he would again seek the presidency.
The Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has charged more than 950 defendants with crimes connected to the attack, according to a statement released Wednesday. That includes more than 280 defendants charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers or employees that day.
Earlier this week, federal investigators also increased the reward for information for an unknown individual who allegedly placed functional pipe bombs outside the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters before the attack.
“We remain committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for the January 6 assault on our democracy. And we remain committed to doing everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again,” Garland said in a statement.
On Friday, Biden mentioned some of the steps taken to prevent such an attack from happening again, including the passage of a law changing the Electoral Count Act. The changes, which passed as part of an omnibus spending bill, alter how electors are counted and reduces the ability of members of Congress to dispute the results.