President Joe Biden hailed the law enforcement response to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, saying at a White House ceremony, “On this day two years ago our democracy held”.
“We the people endured. We the people prevailed. On this day of remembrance, we honour a remarkable group of Americans who embodied the best before during and after January 6, 2021,” the president said.
Mr Biden awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to a number of law enforcement officials and public servants, who a White House official described as “individuals who made exemplary contributions to our democracy surrounding January 6, 2021,” who had “demonstrated courage and selflessness during a moment of peril for our nation”.
The medal, which is one of the nation’s highest civilian honours, is awarded to people who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens”. The Friday ceremony marked the first time Mr Biden has bestowed the award on anyone.
Among the recipients who Mr Biden honored was a group of five current and former police officers who defended the Capitol on the day of the riot and later testified before the House January 6 select committee about their experiences: Ex-Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, former DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, Capitol Police officers Harry Dunn and Caroline Edwards, and Officer Daniel Hodges of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department.
He will also honour US Capitol Police Goodman, who did not give evidence before the panel but became a household name in the wake of the riot after video emerged of him single-handedly leading a group of rioters away from the Senate chamber, giving senators time to evacuate and directing the rioters to a group of waiting officers.
Mr Fanone, who left the DC police department shortly after testifying before the House panel, was the victim of a vicious attack by pro-Trump rioters who stripped him of his badge, police radio, and ammunition while driving a stun gun into his neck, causing him to suffer a heart attack.Mr Gonell was medically retired from the Capitol Force last year due to injuries suffered during the riot.
The president also awarded the medal to three officers posthumously, US Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood and DC police officer Brian Smith.Sicknick and Smith both died after engaging with rioters during the attack, while Liebengood — the son of a former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, took his own life soon after but his death was classified as in the line of duty by the Capitol Police department.