United States (US) President Joe Biden at the East Room of the White House Friday honoured 12 persons, including law enforcement personnel, lawmakers and civil servants in commemoration of the second anniversary of the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.
The security operatives had defended the building, while the lawmakers and civil servants had resisted pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election results when supporters of former President Donald Trump broke through police barricades to block the certification of the poll, which Trump had alleged without proof he had been robbed off by voter fraud.
According to agency reports, Biden had given the Presidential Citizens Medal, America’s second-highest civilian award, to the 12 honorees.
The US President referred to the honorees, including seven members of law enforcement, as “patriots who have performed exemplary deeds in the service of this nation.”
He said: “On this day two years ago, our democracy held, because we the people – as our Constitution refers to us – did not flinch; we the people endured; we the people prevailed.”
The medal awardees, according to him, protected democracy following the 2020 election.
He posited that all Americans must be willing to do same to ensure democracy is protected.
“January 6 is a reminder that there is nothing guaranteed about our democracy … Every generation is required to earn it, defend it, protect it,” Biden said.
Biden had recounted that during his first meeting as president with leaders from the Group of 7 major industrial nations in February 2021, he told them that “America is back.”
Biden said: “Do you know what the response was? Not a joke: ‘For how long?”
Among the awardees were Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who had resisted efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Of another awardee, Al Schmidt, a former Philadelphia election official who faced pressure to stop counting the vote, Biden said: “He did not bend, he did not bow, he did not yield to the political threats and pressure.”
The American leader added: “He is so trusted by both political parties that the new Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, appointed him as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State … that’s a high compliment.”
A posthumous award was given to Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who reportedly died in the days following the attack.
On Thursday, Sicknick’s estate had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Trump, seeking $10 million in damages.
The estate’s court filing stated: “Defendant Trump intentionally riled up the crowd and directed and encouraged a mob to attack the US Capitol and attack those who opposed them.”
At the White House ceremony, Biden praised Congress for recently passing the Electoral Count Reform Act. The measure seeks to avoid a repeat of 2021 efforts by some lawmakers to not certify Biden’s electoral victory.
Meanwhile, members of Congress marked the anniversary of the January 2021 attack Friday with a bipartisan group gathering at the building’s East Front steps to honour the officers who died or were injured as a result of the attack.
The commemorations took place as House Republicans attempted for a fourth day Friday to choose a Speaker, with Republicans who are holding up the vote for the position saying they want to reduce the power of the Speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence over the creation and passage of legislation.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said: “This anniversary should serve as a wake-up call to the Republican Party to reject MAGA (Make America Great Again) radicalism, which has time and time again led to Republican failures. Unfortunately, the utter pandemonium wrought by House Republicans this week is just one example of how the extreme fringe of their party, led by election deniers, is pulling them further into chaos and making it impossible for them to govern.”
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