A rally in Washington on Saturday aims to continue Republican efforts to rewrite the story of the attack on the Capitol. The facts underpin their claims.
In the eight months since pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol, some Republicans have tried to make a case — believed by the facts — that the massive federal investigation into the riots has essentially been unfair, targeting victims of political persecution.
Former President Donald J. Trump said in a statement on Thursday that those accused in the January 6 attack are being “persecuted so unfairly”.
That sentiment is the organizing principle behind the rally scheduled for Saturday in Washington, billed as “Justice for J6.” According to the permit application submitted by the organisers, a group called Look Ahead America, the event is meant to “bring awareness and attention to the nonviolent and immoral behavior of political prisoners on January 6th.”
The rally is the latest in a continuing effort by the right to rewrite the history of mob attacks on Congress, which prosecutors say led to more than 1,000 attacks against police and hindered authentication of President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. demanded.
Here’s what the facts say about the claim of those seeking to promote a false narrative about January 6.
The rioters weren’t the only tourists who now face extreme criminal charges.
One of the first claims made by pro-Trump conservatives about January 6 was that the rioters were little more than tourists and that those arrested were victims of prosecution. Republican Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia described the scene at the Capitol that day as “a typical tourist visit,” meaning that hundreds of those detained were facing exorbitant charges.
But, in fact, about half of the more than 600 people charged have only been charged with misdemeanors such as trespassing and disorderly conduct, rather than more serious crimes.
At this point, more than 50 of these low-level defendants have pleaded guilty. They would all serve a prison sentence of six months or less, or no time at all – a fairly modest sentence for the federal penal system. But even when officials have agreed to generous punishments, they have insisted that no one who broke into the Capitol is innocent.
“There can’t be a riot without rioters,” prosecutors wrote in a recent memo that called for no jail time for Valerie Ehrke, a California woman who spent only a minute in the building. “And the actions of the rioters – from the most mundane to the most violent – contributed directly and indirectly to the violence and destruction of that day.”
The government has not widely detained nonviolent protesters.
At an event hosted by Republican officials in her home state of North Carolina last month, Representative Madison Cawthorne repeated an often-heard myth. He complained that the hundreds of people detained after 6 January were “political hostages”.
The truth is that about 15 percent of those arrested so far in connection with the riots have been denied bail and are in pre-trial custody – far less than the overall federal pre-detention rate of 75 percent. In addition, all those detained on charges relating to January 6 have serious charges of assault or obstructing Congress; No one has just been charged with rape.
Far from jailing everyone, in fact, judges have granted bail to many defendants related to violent attacks on police or extremist groups like the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers militias.
There are some cases in which people have been denied bail without physical violence, but they are exceptions to the rule.
This week, a lawyer for Ethan Nordion, a leader of the Proud Boys, complained in court that his client has been in prison for months, not because he personally did on January 6, but because he is a disgraced member. political organization.
Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was appointed by Trump to the federal bench, responded that only the law was guiding Nordeon’s case.
“Politics has nothing to do with it,” Judge Kelly said. “Not a white one.”
January 6 defendants have not been treated more harshly than racial justice protesters.
The claim has become a staple on the right: Trump supporters were accused of violent crimes in the Capitol attack because of their conservative beliefs, while several left-wing activists were accused of similar charges stemming from racial justice protests in cities like Portland, Ore., last year. Were. or dismissed.
This summer, on January 6, a defendant named Garrett Miller filed court papers arguing this. Mr Miller, who lives in Dallas, claimed he was “treated differently by the government than the Portland rioters,” his attorney wrote.
Refuting these claims, the government argued that there was no comparison between the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year and the protests inspired by the storming of the Capitol. While prosecutors acknowledged that those arrested during the weeks of unrest in the Portland federal courthouse had committed “serious crimes,” they insisted that the rioters in Washington were involved in “a singular and chilling incident” that not only affected the Capitol, but also the capital’s capital. but also “endangered democracy”.
Trying to explain why many cases of racial justice protests were eventually dismissed, prosecutors also said they had far better evidence against Capitol rioters like Mr Miller than protesters in Portland. Among the materials they collected after January 6 were thousands of hours of video footage from surveillance and body cameras worn by police, and hundreds of thousands of social media posts.
A few months after Mr Miller filed his claim, The Associated Press published an analysis Of the more than 300 criminal cases stemming from the protests sparked by Mr Floyd’s killing. The analysis downplayed the argument that pro-Trump defendants were treated more harshly than Black Lives Matter protesters, indicating that many left-wing rioters had received substantial punishment.
There is no evidence that Jan 6 defendants are being treated worse than others in prison.
Perhaps the biggest complaints about Capitol defendants relate to the prison conditions of those denied bail.
The allegations are many and broad. Some of the respondents have complained of being confined in their cell for 23 hours in a day, which amounts to solitary confinement. Others have claimed that they have been denied the right to hold religious services and that their hygiene requirements have been restricted.
A defendant, who is accused of assaulting police, has said that she was zip-tied and then “brutally” beaten by a corrections officer at a District of Columbia prison, according to her attorney. The attack resulted in a broken nose, a dislocated jaw and loss of vision in the man’s right eye.
Of course, prison is a terrible place, no matter what the politics. But at least so far, no one has provided evidence that the authorities imposed harsh conditions on the defendants on January 6 because of their political beliefs.
A spokesman for the District of Columbia prison said the 23-hour lockdown was not just imposed on Capitol defendants, but a medical provision used throughout the prison to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He said it was removed recently.
The Justice Department is using a new charge in some cases.
Prosecutors run a legal risk in the way they choose to prosecute many of the Capitol cases. The potential problem relates to the use of a federal impediment law to accuse people of obstructing Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote. Lawyers for some defendants are challenging the Justice Department’s use of the law in court, but pro-Trump activists have yet to make it a major public issue.
Instead of using politically sinister and hard-to-prove charges such as treason or rebellion to describe an attempt to block the authentication of election results, the Justice Department took a much more measured – albeit novel – law: an official proceeding. used interrupt.
The law isn’t quite right for what happened on January 6th; In fact, it had never been used before in a situation like the Capitol attack.
Passed in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a corporate overhaul law, the measure was designed to prohibit such things as shredding documents or tampering with witnesses. Several lawyers have filed papers arguing that the law does not apply to riots at the Capitol. Two federal judges have indicated they may agree and decide to toss the charge for the more than 200 defendants.
The Justice Department’s use of the obstruction law is arguably the most political move ever. After all, as some defense lawyers have noted, the government didn’t use the same allegation in 2018 when left-wing activists swarmed the Capitol to protest Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.