The Senate broke out in a standing ovation on Friday as it awarded its highest honour to Eugene Goodman, a US Capitol police officer who helped keep a crowd of attackers out of the Senate chamber during the 6 January riots in Washington, buying time for legislators to escape.
It was a rare moment of bipartisanship, passed with unanimous consent, following days of contentious impeachment hearings.
“In the weeks after the attack on January the 6th, the world learned about the incredible, incredible bravery of Officer Goodman on that fateful day,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech to his colleagues on Friday. “Here in this trial, we saw new video, powerful video, showing calmness under pressure, his courage in the line of duty, his foresight in the midst of chaos, and his willingness to make himself a target of the mob’s rage so that others might reach safety.”
The leader then told the chamber officer Goodman was there observing the day’s proceedings, and the senators broke out in applause.
Mr Goodman, along with the other Capitol officers who defended Congress on 6 January, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the body’s highest civilian honour.
During the impeachment trial, newly revealed security videos showed officer Goodman helping stall the mob so vice-president Mike Pence could escape, and guiding senator Mitt Romney to safety, avoiding a close call with the violent crowd breaching the building.
“That day, those men and women risked and gave their lives to save ours, becoming martyrs for our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to her colleagues in a letter on Thursday. “The outstanding heroism and patriotism of our heroes ... demand our deepest appreciation.”
Legislators had previously honoured Mr Goodman at the inauguration, where he escorted vice-president Kamala Harris.
At least 140 police officers were injured during the attacks. US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died as a result of his injuries, and two other officers, Howard Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith, both died from suicide following the riots.
In addition to celebrating officers’ bravery, four congressional committees have launched an investigation into the attacks and how security forces were caught so unprepared, despite months of open agitation from hard-core Trump supporters ahead of 6 January.
Police were so outnumbered in the Capitol that most of the rioters were allowed to leave freely after storming Congress to try and overturn the election by force.
Observers have noted that last summer’s far more peaceful, multi-racial Black Lives Matter protests were met with a harsh police response and militaristic riot control tactics, while the mostly white crowd of pro-Trump rioters were not.
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