U.S. President Joe Biden paid tribute Thursday to the police officers who responded to the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, and asked not to let allies of former President Donald Trump “rewrite history” of what happened that day.
Biden signed a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. legislature – to the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and other officers who responded to the assault.
“The United States owes you a debt that can never be fully repaid,” Biden told the 20 or so police officers present at the White House bill-signing ceremony.
The U.S. president lashed out at those who seek to distort what happened that day, in a veiled allusion to Trump and his allies, who have profiled the mob that led the assault as heroes, despite the fact that the day ended with five dead and 140 law enforcement officers assaulted.
“The tragedy of that day deserves above all else the truth. We cannot allow history to be rewritten. We cannot allow the heroism of these officers to be forgotten,” Biden stressed.
“It was not dissent. It was not a debate. It was not democracy. It was an insurrection. It was riot and maelstrom. It was radical and chaotic. And it was unconstitutional,” he stressed.
The president described the radical Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol as “a mob of extremists and terrorists,” but celebrated that “democracy survived” and “truth defeated lies.”
The aim of the mob that stormed Congress was to prevent the ratification of Biden’s victory in the November elections, as a result of Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in the polls.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris recalled how, after police officers finally managed to clear the Capitol in an operation that lasted several hours, Congress reconvened to certify Biden’s win in an early morning session.
“In those late hours, as those police officers continued to work to keep our city safe, they also kept our democracy safe. Let us never forget that,” Harris asked during the ceremony.
Present at the event were the four police officers who last week testified during the first hearing of the committee pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate the Jan. 6 assault.
Those officers – Aquilino Gonell, Michael Fanone, Harry Dunn and Daniel Hodges – described the physical and psychological scars left on them and many of their colleagues by the assault, in which they suffered beatings and racial slurs.
This week, authorities in the capital confirmed that two other police officers who responded to the Capitol attack, Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida, committed suicide during the month of July, bringing to four the number of officers involved in the January 6 operation who have taken their own lives.