These 14 People, Biden Says, Defended Democracy

White House ceremony honors courage on second anniversary of Capitol attack
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2023 2:05 PM CST
These 14 People, Biden Says, Defended Democracy
Presidential Citizens Medal honorees and family listen as President Biden speaks Friday. They are, top row from left, Jocelyn Benson, Rusty Bowers, Harry Dunn, Caroline Edwards, and Michael Fanone. Bottom row from left are Al Schmidt, Charles and Gladys Sicknick, and Erin Smith.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Two years to the day after insurgents stormed the US Capitol, President Biden awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to 14 Americans for their courage in protecting the building, Congress, and the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. The medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, was presented to nine police officers and five local officials in a White House ceremony on Friday, the first time Biden has given the award to anyone. Three of the police officers died after standing up to the attackers trying to keep President Donald Trump in office on Jan. 6, 2021. History "will remember your names, remember your courage, remember your bravery," Biden told the group, the New York Times reports. The recipients, per NPR, are:

Brian Sicknick: The Capitol police officer battled the mob and died a day later after suffering two strokes. His parents accepted his medal Friday. The cause of death officially was listed as natural causes, but Capitol Police said that "does not change the fact Officer Sicknick died in the line of duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol."
Howard Liebengood: Days after the assault, the 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police died in what was ruled to be suicide.
Jeffrey L. Smith: The Metropolitan Police Department officer suffered head injuries on Jan. 6. Video showed insurgents attacking him repeatedly, per CBS News. He killed himself the next week.
Harry Dunn: The Capitol Police officer, a 15-year veteran, described the racist slurs and harassment the mob directed at him during the attack in House committee testimony.
Caroline Edwards: The Capitol Police officer suffered a traumatic brain injury while defending the Capitol grounds. Biden said she "got back up to help hold the line" after attackers knocked her unconscious. "I saw friends with blood all over their faces, I was slipping in people's blood. I was catching people as they fell," she told the committee. "It was carnage, it was chaos."
Aquilino Gonell: The sergeant in the Capitol Police, Army veteran who served in Iraq and emigrant from the Dominican Republic sustained injuries in the line of duty. "I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, 'This is how I'm going to die, trampled defending this entrance,'" he told the committee.
Eugene Goodman: Video showed the Capitol Police officer leading rioters away from the Senate chamber and directing Sen. Mitt Romney away from the attackers. Goodman also battled attackers near the Senate.
Michael Fanone: Injured in the attack, the Metropolitan Police Department Officer resigned from the force later that year after two decades. He was "beaten, beaten, not pushed around, beaten," Biden said, and still "defended our democracy with absolute courage."
Daniel Hodges: Rioters crushed the Metropolitan Police Department officer between doors of the Capitol. After the attack, he told WAMU that he was yelled at by people saying, "Why are you doing this, you're the traitor.'" Hodges said: "We're not the traitors. We're the ones who saved Congress that day, and we'll do it as many times as necessary."
Jocelyn Benson: Michigan's secretary of state received death threats after endorsing the election results, and dozens of armed protesters gathered outside her home. She was reelected in November.
Rusty Bowers: The Republican former speaker of the Arizona House testified that Trump and his allies pressured him to recall the state's electors and investigate the election results, though there was no evidence of wrongdoing. He refused.
Shaye Moss: As an elections worker in Fulton County, Georgia, Moss was threatened and accused of fraudulently processing ballots, allegations spread by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. She left her job to go into hiding.
Ruby Freeman: The Fulton County election worker, the mother of Moss, also endured harassment and accusations. Along with her daughter, she testified before the House committee about the damage done to her life. "Both of them were just doing their jobs," Biden said, per the Times, "and they were targeted and threatened by the same peddlers of a lie that was fueling the insurrection."
Al Schmidt: As the Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia overseeing local election results, he received death threats and faced harassment. He "did not bend, he did not bow, he did not yield to the political threats and pressure," Biden said. (More Capitol riot stories.)

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