President Biden on Thursday signed a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal, the body’s highest national recognition, to a group of law enforcement officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Mr Biden, who was accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, signed the legislation at a Rose Garden ceremony attended by more than a dozen officers. “It breaks my heart,” he said. “It breaks the heart of the nation to remember that you were attacked by thousands of violent insurgents in the Capitol of the United States of America.”
Congress passed the bill this week amid reports of the suicides of two officers who were at the Capitol on the day of the riot, bringing the known number of officers who committed suicide in the aftermath to four. Dozens of other officers are still recovering from the psychological and physical trauma they sustained at the hands of the mob.
“On Jan. 6, Congress was given a first-hand reminder of a reality many American citizens face every day,” Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said in a statement Thursday. “That the brave men and women of law enforcement are really a thin blue line that stands between peace and chaos.”
Last week, four police officers defending the Capitol that day gave excruciating details about their experiences before a special commission investigating the riots. Donald J. Trump beat, crushed and shocked them.
Under the law, four Congressional Gold Medals will be awarded to honor the officers: one to be displayed at the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, one at the Smithsonian and one at the Capitol. A plaque near the Capitol is a list of all law enforcement agencies that helped protect the building.
About 140 police officers were injured in the attack and 15 were hospitalized. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick died of a stroke after clashing with the crowd.
The Senate voted in February to award a Congressional gold medal to Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from the Senate Chamber and Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah, away from the crowd.
In June, the House expanded the measure to apply to all members of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department involved in the Jan. 6 response. That legislation passed overwhelmingly, even though 21 far-right Republicans voted against it.