NATIONAL NEWS

Jan. 6 ‘heroes’ honored for defending Capitol from Trump mob

Dec 6, 2022, 3:14 PM
District of Columbia Police Chief Robert Contee looks on as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passe...
District of Columbia Police Chief Robert Contee looks on as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passes gold medals to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building on December 6, 2022 in Washington, DC. Bipartisan and bicameral leadership held the ceremony to award the Congressional Gold Medals to law enforcement officers who protected the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hailed as heroes, the law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were honored Tuesday with Congressional Gold Medals and praised for securing democracy when they fought off a brutal and bloody attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the emotional ceremony, tensions still raw in the stately Capitol Rotunda, which was overrun that day when Trump supporters battled police, broke into the building and stormed the halls trying to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.

“January 6 was a day of horror and heartbreak; it is also a moment of extraordinary heroism — staring down deadly violence and despicable bigotry,” Pelosi said.

In bestowing Congress’ highest honor, Pelosi praised the heroes for “courageously answering the call to defend our democracy in one of the nation’s darkest hours.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said: “Thank you for having our backs. Thank you for saving our country.”

But showing the raw political and emotional fallout from the violent insurrection and its aftermath, representatives of the family of fallen officer Brian Sicknick declined to shake hands with the Republican leaders, snubbing McConnell’s outstretched palm.

Sicknick’s mother had personally lobbied House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders for the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Capitol attack, or when that failed, to support the House investigative panel. Both McConnell and McCarthy voted against the independent commission, and McCarthy has railed against the House panel as a partisan political exercise.

To recognize the hundreds of officers who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the medals will be placed in four locations — at U.S. Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution. In signing the legislation last year, Biden said that one will be placed at the Smithsonian museum “so all visitors can understand what happened that day.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said for some officers Tuesday was their first visit to the Capitol since that horrific day, a scene filled with the clanking sound of metal poles being wielded as weapons, “the air still thick” with chemical sprays as officers were assaulted by the mob of Trump supporters.

“Many of us still carry the mental, physical and emotional scars,” Contee said of the city police officers who rushed in as the U.S. Capitol Police were overrun by the mob.

“Exhausted and injured, it was your blood, your sweat and your tears that marked these grounds,” he said.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger called it “a day unlike any other in our nation’s history. And for us, it was a day defined by chaos, courage and tragic loss.”

The ceremony at the Capitol comes as Democrats, just weeks away from losing their House majority, race to finish a nearly 18-month investigation of the insurrection.

Without support from GOP leadership, Democrats led the bipartisan probe with two Republicans and vowed to uncover the details of the attack, which came as Trump tried to overturn his election defeat and encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” in a rally just before the congressional certification.

Awarding the medals is among Pelosi’s last ceremonial acts as she prepares to step down from leadership.

“Your valor that day is the stuff of legend,” Pelosi told those officers gathered Tuesday.

More than 100 officers who fought off the rioters sustained serious injuries. As the mob of Trump’s supporters pushed past them and into the Capitol, police were beaten with American flags and their own guns, dragged down stairs, sprayed with chemicals and trampled and crushed by the crowd. Officers suffered physical wounds, including brain injuries with lifelong effects, and many struggled to work afterward because they were so traumatized.

Four officers who testified at a House hearing last year spoke openly about the lasting mental and physical scars, and some detailed near-death experiences.

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges described foaming at the mouth, bleeding and screaming as the rioters tried to gouge out his eye and crush him between two heavy doors.

Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.”

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said a large group of people shouted the N-word at him as he was trying to keep them from breaching the House chamber.

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.

Sicknick collapsed and later died after one of the rioters sprayed him with a chemical. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.

Several months after the attack, in August 2021, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the insurrection had died by suicide. The circumstances that led to their deaths were unknown.

The June 2021 House vote to award the medals won widespread support from both parties. But 21 House Republicans voted against it — lawmakers who had downplayed the violence and stayed loyal to Trump. The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections.

With the U.S. Army Band singing “God Bless America,” the ceremony could be the last for some time marking the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as Republicans in the House majority are unlikely to continue a tradition of commemorating the day.

Most of the House Republicans objected to certifying Biden’s election. Some newly elected Republican lawmakers were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pelosi, McConnell, McCarthy and Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer awarded the medals. McCarthy, who is in line to become House speaker when Republicans take control, linked the Jan. 6 “heroes” to others in law enforcement.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, has been handed out since 1776. Previous recipients include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and Robert Frost.

Signing the bill at the White House last year, Biden said the officers’ heroism cannot be forgotten.

The insurrection was a “violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people,” and Americans have to understand what happened, he said. “The honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden speaks onstag...
Lisa Respers France

Grammy winners 2023: See who won

Harry Styles won album of the year at the Grammy Awards, taking home the top honor on a night that Beyoncé dominated and became the ceremony’s most decorated artist.
1 day ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Beyoncé accepts Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for “Re...
Scottie Andrew

Beyoncé officially has the most Grammys of any artist

Bey just became the most awarded artist in Grammys history, with a record 32 wins.
1 day ago
USU student Max Shulga during Saturday night's game....
Shelby Lofton

Utah State community responds to ‘Russia’ chants directed at Ukrainian player

Some USU students say that the Colorado State University students crossed a line that goes beyond simple trash talk during a game.
1 day ago
FILE (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Judge: Banning guns for marijuana users unconstitutional

A federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled a federal law prohibiting people who use marijuana from owning firearms is unconstitutional.
1 day ago
Five lucky couples who get engaged at a Cracker Barrel restaurant will have the chance to win free ...
Zoe Sottile

Valentines’ Day proposals at Cracker Barrel might win you free food for a year

The restaurant chain has announced a romantic new venture for Valentine's Day. Five lucky couples will have the chance to win free Cracker Barrel for a year, according to its website.
1 day ago
Miami police unveiled a Black History Month-inspired vehicle wrap featuring the pan-African colors ...
Hannah Sarisohn and Eric Levenson

Miami PD unveil Black History Month-inspired vehicle wrap

The Miami Police on Thursday unveiled a Black History Month-inspired vehicle wrap that features the pan-African colors, outlines of the African continent, raised fists and kente cloth.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Jan. 6 ‘heroes’ honored for defending Capitol from Trump mob