WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Friday is set to mark the second anniversary of the U.S. Capitol attack with an award ceremony for “heroes” from law enforcement, politics and civil service for their contributions to democracy that day and beyond.
Biden, a Democrat, will award the “Presidential Citizens Medal” to 12 people and give remarks during a ceremony at the White House while Republicans, many of them loyal to former President Donald Trump, struggle for a fourth straight day to elect a speaker of the House of Representatives.
Honorees include former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who resisted pressure to overturn the 2020 election results in their states, Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who diverted rioters from the Senate floor while lawmakers were evacuating, and Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman, who was falsely accused by Trump of election fraud.
Freeman was forced to flee her home last year after death threats from angry Trump supporters. Trump on Wednesday targeted Freeman by name again to his nearly 5 million followers on his social media platform.
The White House called the 12 honorees “heroes” who demonstrated courage and selflessness during a moment of peril for America.
Trump supporters attacked police, broke through barricades and entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a failed effort to prevent congressional certification of Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump, who has announced another bid for the presidency in 2024, continues to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.
The White House event will provide Biden another opportunity to condemn the acts of violence two years ago and raise concerns about the threats to U.S. democracy by Trump and people inspired by him. The inability of Republicans so far this week to elect a House speaker, after winning control of the chamber in the November midterm elections, has hinged on a hardline group of mostly Trump-supporting lawmakers, many of whom backed his election fraud claims.
The fight to pick a House leader has raised questions about the capacity of Republicans to govern with a slim majority in the House. Biden has called the speaker election drama embarrassing.
Biden provided another contrast with bickering House Republicans during a joint appearance with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday in Kentucky in a display of bipartisanship. Democrats narrowly control the U.S. Senate.
The White House ceremony is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT).
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the days following the attack on the Capitol, will also receive a posthumous medal. Washington’s chief medical examiner ruled that Sicknick died of natural causes following multiple strokes after the attack on the Capitol.
Shortly before the rampage, Trump in his waning days as president delivered a speech near the White House urging his supporters to march on the Capitol. Five people died in the ensuing riot and more than 140 police officers were injured. A U.S. House panel investigating the attack said last month that Trump should face criminal charges for his role in provoking the violence.