(CNN) — President Joe Biden plans Friday to mark the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 uprising by awarding the Presidential Citizens Medal to 12 people for the first time in his presidency.
The people include law enforcement officers injured defending the Capitol, a Capitol Police officer who died the day after rioters stormed the building, and poll workers who opposed former President Donald Trump’s efforts to determine the results of the 2020 election cancel.
Biden will address the White House and host a ceremony honoring the dozen individuals selected for their “exemplary contributions to our democracy” and “courage and selflessness” related to the January 6 events have shown, a White House official familiar with the details told CNN.
The Presidential Citizens Medal is one of the country’s highest civilian honors, bestowed upon American citizens who are recognized as having “provided exemplary acts of service to their country or their fellow citizens.” Biden’s decision to honor Americans who he believes have protected the nation’s Capitol, its democratic institutions, and its electoral system is one of the key ways the president has attempted to create stark contrast from his predecessor.
Biden told CNN’s Phil Mattingly on Thursday that he prays “to God” that another riot “never happens again.” When asked by Mattingly at a cabinet meeting about the significance of the group Biden invited to the White House ceremony, the president said there had been “a lot of thought.”
More than half of the 12 recipients of Friday’s Presidential Citizens Medal are current and former law enforcement officials.
These include the Capitol Police Officer Eugene Gutman, who is credited with luring rioters away from the entrance to Senate chambers when lawmakers were being evacuated, using himself as “bait”; former DC cop Michael Fanone who was brutally attacked by rioters and said he suffered a heart attack as a result of the experience (Fanone is now a CNN contributor); and Capitol Police Officers Caroline Edwardswho testified before the January 6 House Committee that she hit her head and was knocked unconscious during a clash with insurgents before deciding to run back into the chaos.
One person will receive the medal posthumously: Capitol Police Officer Brian Krankennick, who was determined to have suffered a stroke and died the day after responding to the uprising. Washington DC’s chief medical examiner said that “everything that happened that day” “played a role in his condition.” Sicknick’s remains were honored in the Capitol Rotunda last year.
Other recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal on Friday include campaign workers who are credited with opposing efforts by Trump and his supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
they include Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, both of whom served as poll workers in Fulton County, Georgia. The two black women gave emotional and poignant testimony before the House of Representatives committee on Jan. 6, describing how their lives were turned upside down after the former president and his allies publicly denounced them as voter fraudsters.
“I don’t feel safe anywhere. Nowhere. Do you know how it feels when the President of the United States takes aim at you?” Freeman told the House panel.
Moss told the committee that Trump’s attacks on her – and the storm of racist threats that followed – turned her life upside down. “I don’t want anyone to know my name,” she said. “It has had a huge impact on my life in every way — all because of lies.”
rusty arbors, the Arizona House Speaker, who has spoken out in opposition to an intense pressure campaign by Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and Al Schmidt, A former Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia who was publicly derided by Trump as “RINO” (Republican in name only) for dismissing claims of widespread voter fraud in the city will be honored.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges are also among the 12 recipients of the medal.
mark the one year anniversary of last year’s uprising, Biden delivered an impassioned speech denouncing Trump’s attacks on American democracy.
“For the first time in our history, a president has not lost just one election. He tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power when a violent mob invaded the Capitol,” Biden said in a speech from the Capitol. “But they failed. They failed. And on this commemoration day, we must ensure that such an attack never, ever happens again.”
While Biden has largely avoided weighing the specifics of the Jan. 6 House committee and its work, as well as the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the day’s events, he has consistently spoken more broadly about how the day marked an unacceptable attack on the democratic pillars of the country.
He also brought up the issue of defending the country’s democracy in the midterm elections. The issue proved more resonant with voters than many expected, leaving the White House feeling vindicated.
This week, as political drama and infighting gripped House Republicans, who failed to elect a House Speaker in multiple rounds of voting, the President called the debacle an “embarrassing” episode for the country — and made it clear that May 6 January 2021 was on his mind.
“How do you think it looks for the rest of the world?” Biden told reporters Wednesday. “We’re really in the process of working through the whole issue around January 6th. Things calm down. And now, for the first time in 100 years, we can’t move?”
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