President Joe Biden said the attack on the US Capitol on January 6 by supporters of former President Donald Trump was an insurrection by “terrorists” aimed at overturning “the will of the American people”.
President Biden’s words, some of his strongest yet about the Capitol riot that are now under congressional investigation, came as he signed a bill at the White House awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to officers of the Capitol Police and Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police for valour.
“My fellow Americans, let’s remember what this was all about,” Biden said of the siege.
“It was a violent attempt to overturn the will of the American people, to seek power at all costs, to replace the ballot with brute force. To destroy, not to build. Without democracy, nothing is possible. With it, everything is.”
The medal is the highest honor Congress can bestow. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden to sign the bill, which was passed unanimously by the US Senate earlier this week.
Many officers were beaten and injured that day as the violent mob of Trump’s supporters pushed past them to break into the Capitol and interrupt the certification of Biden’s 2020 election victory. Some of them, including four who testified at a House hearing last week, have spoken about the lasting mental and physical scars.
The law will place the medals in four locations — Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the US Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution.
The US District of Columbia’s police department announced this week that two more police officers who responded to the January 6 riot at the United States Capitol have died by suicide, bringing to four the number of known suicides by officers on duty at the building that day. The circumstances that led to the two deaths announced this week are unknown.
Another officer of the Capitol Police who had been attacked by protesters died of a stroke after the incident. More than 100 police officers were injured, some of them seriously.
A special committee of the US House of Representatives charged with probing January 6 heard testimony last week from four officers who faced off with rioters.
The hearing capped months of debate in Congress about launching an independent, bipartisan investigation modelled after that created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
“I was grabbed, beaten, tased – all while be called a traitor to my country,” Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone recounted in emotional testimony.
“I was at risk of being stripped off and killed with my own firearm, as I heard chants of ‘kill him with his own gun.'”
US prosecutors are offering plea deals to a group of six people accused of forming a “shield wall” of stolen police equipment as they battled officers in the US Capitol on January 6, a federal prosecutor told a court hearing on Thursday.
At a status hearing for six defendants facing felony riot charges, Assistant US Attorney Melissa Jackson told US District Judge Trevor McFadden that prosecutors had made plea offers to accused rioters who used police riot shields and batons to attack uniformed officers guarding the Capitol.
Crowd members could also be “overheard planning and implementing a rotation of rioters to have the ‘fresh’ rioters up front” to form a “shield wall” to stop police from using pepper spray.
One of the defendants, Christopher Quaglin, is accused of spraying police with a chemical irritant. Court records indicate Quaglin and two other related defendants remain in pre-trial detention.
The plea deals offered to the group are the latest which prosecutors have made to a growing number of defendants facing charges related to the January 6 riot.
More than 535 people have been charged with taking part in the violence, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Trump falsely claims he lost the election because of widespread electoral fraud.