President Joe Biden signed legislation on Thursday awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan 6. – with a helping hand from Abigail Evans, whose father helped protect Congress that day but died three months later when a motorist drove into a barricade at the complex.
She stood at his elbow marveling at the number of pens the president used, and replaced the cap on one.
‘This is a silly way to do this,’ said Biden. ‘Mommy will explain later.’
It was a tender moment that reminded viewers of the sacrifices made by police officers defending America democracy on an afternoon when Biden honored those who ‘stood in the breach’ to protect lawmakers.
‘It wasn’t dissent. It wasn’t debate … It was insurrection. It was riot and mayhem. It was radical and chaotic. And it was unconstitutional,’ Biden said of the riots that swarmed the Capitol on the day Congress met to count the electoral votes.
President Biden asked the two children of William ‘Billy’ Evans, who died at the Capitol on April 2, to join him as he signed legislation honoring police officers who defended Congress from a violent mob. Abigail Evans replaced the cap on one of the pens
Logan and Abigail Evans got a close up view of the signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden as Biden honored the capital’s police officers
Biden gave Abigail a handful of pens that he used to sign the legislation and asked her to hand them to the officers standing behind him
President Joe Biden hands a pen to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after the signing ceremony
After signing H.R. 3325, Biden had a quiet word for Logan Evans who presented the president with a police patch
He called it a ‘test of whether our democracy could survive.’
‘Truth defeated lies. We did overcome,’ Biden said at an event at the White House Rose Garden.
More than 100 officers were injured that day as a violent mob of President Trump’s supporters confronted them on their to break into the Capitol.
Officer Brian Sicknick died the following day and his family was on hand to hear the tributes.
But the star of the show was little Abigail and her brother Logan. Their father William ‘Billy’ Evans survived the events of Jan. 6 but was killed when a driver crashed into a security barricade, crushing him.
As Biden sat down to sign the legislation, he called up Abigail and Logan for a close up view.
When he was finished working his way through a box of pens, he turned to Abigail and said: ‘Now you gotta help me out.
‘Would you give a pen to each of the people back there?
‘And then I’ll get pens for you, ok?’
She collected them in her fist and set off around the podium on her mission.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hugs Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone during the event in the Rose Garden
In his speech, Biden honored her father and Sicknick.
‘Both gave the full measure of their devotion to the country at the United States Capitol,’ he said.
Guests in the Rose Garden included four officers who delivered emotional testimony to Congress about how they feared for their lives and had suffered mental scars ever since.
Capitol Police officers Sergeant Aquilino Gonell and Officer Harry Dunn, along with D.C. Metropolitan Police officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges described how they tried to keep back the mob.
Biden welcomed them to the Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon.
‘You stood in the breach. You did your duty,’ he told them.
The ceremony came at a dark time for police officers in the nation’s capital. Four have taken their own lives since the insurrection.
The medal is the highest honor that Congress can bestow.
The legislation provides that one each will go to the D.C. Metropolitan Police and U.S. Capitol Police. Two more will go to the Architect of the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution, who are directed to put them on public display.
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke, referring to her own experience in the Capitol that day as senators gathered to certify last year’s election.
‘Democrats, independents, and Republicans came together and upheld the vote and the voice of the American people,’ she said.
‘As those officers continued, even at that late hour, to secure our Capitol, they secured our democracy.
‘So, let us never forget that, and let us always remember their courage.
DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone (R) hugs DC Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee (C) after Joe Biden delivered remarks honoring law enforcement in the Rose Garden
Pelosi hugs U.S. Capitol Police Pfc. Harry Dunn, who last week testified before Congress about the abuse he had suffered as Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser second from left, listens as President Joe Biden speaks during the event at the White House Rose Garden
‘Truth defeated lies. We did overcome,’ said Biden as he praised the officers
‘In securing our Capitol, they secured our democracy. These officers are heroes. And these officers are patriots,’ she said.
Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the medals were ‘a recognition that will be on display for people to understand and remember what these officers did.’
When bringing the bill up for a vote on Tuesday, she said that children of the future will be able to walk by and see the medals in the Smithsonian, and their parents will tell them: ‘This happened, this attack happened.’
The Senate passed the legislation by voice vote, with no Republican objections. The House passed the bill in June, with 21 Republicans who have downplayed the insurrection in Trump´s defense voting against it.
Trump, along with many Republicans still loyal to him, has tried to rebrand the rioting as a peaceful protest, even as law enforcement officers who responded that day have detailed the violence and made clear the toll it has taken on them.
The four officers who testified in the emotional hearing last week detailed near-death experiences as the rioters beat and crushed them on their way into the building.
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.
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, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner determined he died of natural causes.
Last week, the Metropolitan Police announced that two more of their officers who had responded to the insurrection had died by suicide. Officer Kyle DeFreytag was found dead on July 10 and Officer Gunther Hashida was found dead in his home Thursday. The circumstances that lead to their deaths are unknown.
‘We are grieving as a department,’ the police said in a statement.
In a ceremony to send the bill to the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that Jan. 6 was ‘a moment, a day of extraordinary tragedy for our country’ and praised the Capitol Police for their bravery and patriotism.
‘Im so sad that it took a tragedy of this nature for the recognition to be given to them,’ Pelosi said.