Biden honors ‘heroes’ on Jan. 6 anniversary, while Trump’s fate hangs in the balance

A survey conducted last summer by theGrio and KFF found that 84% of Black voters believe white supremacy played a major role in the Jan. 6 attack.

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President Joe Biden on Friday delivered remarks and honored some of the heroes of the Jan. 6 insurrection on the second anniversary of the Capitol attack. 

The 14 honorees (two posthumously), four of whom are Black Americans, received the Presidential Citizens Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors. The White House said each recipient “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”

Left to right: Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn; Trump supporters storming the Capitol building; Georgia election worker Shaye Moss testifies before the Jan. 6 insurrection. (Photo: Getty Images)

Some of the citizens being honored include Capitol Police officers Harry Dunn and Eugene Goodman, and mother-daughter duo Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, who worked as Fulton County, Georgia election officials during the 2020 presidential election.

“History will remember your names, remember your courage, remember your bravery, [and] remember your extraordinary commitments to your fellow Americans,” said President Biden during his remarks in the White House east room.

While acknowledging the bravery of Freeman and Moss, the only Black women honored with the presidential medal on Friday, Biden broke away from his prepared remarks to tell them both “I’m so proud of you both.”

Just days after the insurrection two years ago, Lonnie Bunch, a historian and secretary of the Smithsonian, previously told theGrio that Jan. 6 would forever be remembered as a “day of infamy.”

“It is crucially important that we remember and reflect on Jan. 6 because it is a dramatic reminder of the fragility of democracy and the need to struggle as a nation to live up to our highest ideals,” he said in a statement released to theGrio on Friday.

On Jan. 6, 2021, a mob of mostly white Americans attacked the United States Capitol building in rejection of Biden’s legal win over former President Donald Trump. Despite the violence and bloodshed of the once-in-a-lifetime insurrection aimed to stop Congress from certifying the election results, the process continued after law enforcement successfully secured the Capitol.

President Trump, currently under federal and local investigation for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election and instigating the insurrection, did little to stop the destruction. After the urging of White House officials and close confidants and hours after the deadly attack, Trump published a tweet asking his supporters to “remain peaceful.”

As the White House commemorates Jan. 6, for the first time in 100 years the United States House of Representatives is without a speaker in leadership. Notably, during the 11th round of voting on Thursday night, Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz nominated Trump for the speakership. He was the only member of Congress who cast their ballot for the twice-impeached former president.

President Donald Trump rallies his supporters at the Jan. 6 “Stop The Steal” Rally in Washington, D.C., which eventually led to the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

After months of televised hearings and closed-door testimonies from those in the Trump orbit with knowledge of the events leading up to and during the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, led by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, recommended to the Department of Justice four federal charges to indict Trump. The nation now awaits a decision from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

A survey conducted last summer by theGrio and KFF found that most Black voters (84%) believe Trump should be charged with crimes for his role in the Jan. 6 attack based on what they had seen or heard from the select committee. Eighty-four percent of Black voters also say they believe white supremacy played a major role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The survey shows 90% of Black voters who are Democrats or lean that way believe white supremacy played a major role in the attack, while 51% of Black voters who are Republican or lean Republican felt the same way.

How much of a role do you think white supremacy played in the events that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021?

How much of a role do you think white supremacy played in the events that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021?
Read full TheGrio/KFF Survey of Black Voters

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he agrees with the majority of respondents surveyed by theGrio and KFF. Crump told theGrio: “I think it was likely [driven by] white supremacy because you listen to the rhetoric of President Trump and you see that he fanned racist flames to try to make people act on emotions and, you know, play to our greatest fears of ignorance.” 

Ironically, Trump was embroiled in controversy over the Thanksgiving holiday last year after he welcomed entertainer Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and known white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes to his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed the former president for his controversial dinner, telling theGrio, “We should all be condemning this.” 

In a previous interview with theGrio, January 6th Select Committee Chairman Thompson noted that Trump invited white nationalist and militia groups – including Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters – “to come to Washington to stop the steal, to stop the count [of the 2020 election results], and basically told them it’s going to be wild.”

Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., center, speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 19, 2022. From left, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. A report set to be released by House investigators will conclude that then-President Donald Trump criminally plotted to overturn his 2020 election defeat and “provoked his supporters to violence” at the Capitol with false claims of voter fraud. The resulting Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection threatened democracy and the lives of lawmakers and police. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Photo via AP, File`)

Thompson was clear about the racism and the hypocrisy of the day. “If the majority of the rioters who broke into the Capitol had been African American, it would have been a bloody event, [and there would’ve] been a number of killings that occurred,” said the Mississippi lawmaker. “But because they were a majority of a different color, the response wasn’t nearly as strong as it would have been. You would have not had the problem of getting the National Guard to come to the Capitol.” 

Thompson said the failures of the Jan. 6 attack exposed a failure in the integration of intelligence among federal agencies. “There was very little intelligence out there that something was going to happen on Jan. 6,” he explained. 

“From a written standpoint, that was a memo from the Norfolk FBI Agency, basically saying something is going to happen. We’re not sure. But when it got sent up to Washington, it didn’t get the same level of attention and scrutiny that you would think.”

Thompson said his panel’s investigation, which concluded its work in December with an 800-page public report, made recommendations to Congress and others “so that, if adopted…it would never happen again.”

Now the question looms over the DOJ: will Trump, who is now a 2024 presidential candidate, be held accountable for his role in the insurrection that sought to upend democracy, or will his streak of evasion continue?

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