President Joe Biden and members of Congress held solemn ceremonies at the White House and the Capitol on Friday to mark the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot.
Biden awarded one of the nation’s highest civilian honors to the police, election workers and public officials who in various ways worked to defeat the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6 and preserve the nation’s democratic traditions.
In a White House ceremony, the president recounted the physical and moral courage shown by the 14 honorees amid a multi-pronged effort to subvert the election. Three of the awards were given posthumously.
Biden described Jan. 6 as the product of “lies about the 2020 election.” He did not mention former President Donald Trump, though his predecessor continues to falsely insists the election was stolen.
“On January the 6th our democracy was attacked,” Biden said. “There’s no other way of saying it. The U.S. Capitol was breached, which had never happened before in the history of the United States of America.”
“A violent mob of insurrectionists assaulted law enforcement, vandalized sacred halls, hunted down elected officials — all for the purpose of an attempt to overthrow the will of the people and usurp the peaceful transfer of power. All of it was fueled by lies about the 2020 election.”
Biden pays tribute to Jan. 6 heroism on anniversaryJan. 6, 202302:07
Many of the recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal endured either sustained harassment or violent physical attacks for their efforts to certify the 2020 election. The medal is awarded to those who have performed “exemplary deeds” in serving their country or fellow citizens.
Two of the recipients were Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, both of whom were targets of baseless claims that they had engaged in fraud when counting ballots on Election Day. Biden narrowly defeated Trump in Georgia, a result that proved devastating to the former president's chances for a second term.
Moss and Freeman testified before the House Jan. 6 committee last year and described in gripping detail how their lives were upended by the conspiracy theories surrounding the routine work of tallying votes. Trump hasn’t let the issue go, using his Truth Social site to renew his attack on the mother-daughter pair as recently as this week.
Commending what he described as their quiet courage, Biden said: “Both of them were just doing their jobs until they were targeted and threatened by the same predators and peddlers of lies that would fuel the insurrection. They were literally forced from their homes, facing despicable racist taunts.”
Earlier in the day, House lawmakers marked the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot with a ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, which Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called "a citadel of democracy" that had come under assault that day.
Jeffries, in his first official public act as minority leader, paid special tribute to the officers who died or suffered grievous injuries in defending the Capitol against the "bloodthirsty violence of the insurrectionist mob."
"We stand here today with our democracy intact because of those officers," the New York Democrat said.
Jeffries noted the rioters "attempted to halt the peaceful transfer of power" by blocking the certification of Biden's Electoral College victory.
"They failed because of the bravery and valor of the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department officers who fought heroically to defend our democracy," he said. "We will never forget their sacrifice and we will never forget that day."
Jeffries then led the crowd, which included families of the fallen officers, in a moment of silence that lasted 140 seconds — one second for each officer who suffered serious injuries.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., was among the largely Democratic group of lawmakers who attended Friday's ceremony. Last year, only then-Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., joined House Democrats for a moment of silence on the first anniversary of the attack.
In a separate event at the Capitol, a small group of supporters of Jan. 6 participants gathered near the site of the initial breach. Counter-protesters sparred with them, calling them “insurrectionist losers.” The two groups eventually separated after a group of police officers on bikes arrived.
Capitol Police later confirmed the arrest of Micki Witthoeft, the mother of Jan. 6 rioter Ashlii Babbitt, who was killed by a Capitol Police officer as she jumped through a broken window leading to the House Speaker’s Lobby.
Police said Witthoeft refused to leave the road and “turned around with her hands behind her back, and asked to be arrested.” She was charged with two traffic offenses: refusing to obey an order and blocking and obstructing roadways, and released with a citation.
CORRECTION: (Jan. 6, 2023, 5:48 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated, in the headline and text, the party affiliation of the lawmakers who participated in the Capitol ceremony. At least one Republican attended; it was not just Democrats.