Lingering divisions from the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot were on full display Tuesday when legislative leaders presented the Congressional Gold Medal to law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol during last year’s attack.
In a moment that drew widespread attention, family members of former Capitol Police Office Brian Sicknick — who died one day after the Capitol attack from natural causes following multiple strokes — snubbed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during the ceremony, declining to shake their hands after the medals were presented.
The family members were captured on camera shaking hands with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), but when they got to McConnell and McCarthy, they continued walking. McConnell’s hand was extended during the interaction.
“It’s self-explanatory,” Ken Sicknick, the officer’s brother, told reporters following the ceremony. “They came out right away and condemned what happened on Jan. 6. And whatever hold that Trump has on them, they’ve backstepped, they’ve danced, they won’t admit to wrongdoing.”
Shortly after the Capitol riot, McCarthy delivered a speech on the House floor in which he said Trump bore responsibility for the attack. Days later, however, the Republican leader traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to meet with the ex-president.
Asked if they deserved a handshake, Brian Sicknick responded “no.”
“Unlike Liz Cheney they have no idea what integrity is,” Sicknick said. “They can’t stand up for what’s right and wrong. With them it’s party first.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Schumer, McCarthy and McConnell gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to present the highest honor Congress can award to law enforcement officers who responded on Jan. 6.
Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger and Washington and D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III accepted the medal on behalf of the officers. They were joined by the families of Sicknick, former Capitol Police Officers Howard Liebengood and William Evans and former Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, all of whom died following the riot.
All four congressional leaders delivered remarks. Pelosi said the Congressional Gold Medal should “serve as a token of our nation’s deepest gratitude and respect” to the law enforcement officers who responded to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“January 6th was a day of horror and heartbreak, yet is also a moment of extraordinary heroism. Staring down deadly violence and despicable bigotry, our law enforcement officers bravely stood in the breach, ensuring that democracy survived on that dark day,” she said.
McCarthy said the ceremony was meant to “pay tribute” to the services and sacrifice of law enforcement on Jan. 6, and McConnell thanked the officers “for being not just our friends, but our heroes.”
The snub by Sicknick’s family during Tuesday’s ceremony was a microcosm of the larger divisions that still exist nearly two years after the Jan. 6 attack.
A number of Republicans have repeatedly criticized the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, and some GOP members of the lower chamber have ignored subpoenas issued to them by the panel.
Just last week, McCarthy wrote a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the committee, indicating his plan to investigate the panel.
The committee is set to dissolve at the end of the year after Republicans won control of the chamber for the next Congress.
Tuesday’s ceremony came after both the House and Senate passed a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the law enforcement personnel. President Biden signed the measure in August 2021.
Manger, the head of the Capitol Police, called Jan. 6 “a day unlike any other in our nation’s history,” noting that it was “defined by chaos, courage, tragic loss, and resolve.” Contee, who leads the Metropolitan Police Department, said Tuesday marked “a significant moment” in the history of the department.
“Our profession is rooted in a culture of guardianship. And there has been no better representation of this than what the world witnessed from our police officers on January the sixth,” he added.