GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot
Five Senate Republicans are alleging "unequal" treatment by the Department of Justice in its handling of criminal prosecutions for those who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 compared to those involved in vandalism and violence during last summer's social justice protests across the country.
The senators wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking information on the “potential unequal justice administered," emphasizing that they believed "criminals" should be held accountable in both examples.
The senators are seeking answers to 18 questions regarding the Justice Department's pursuit of individuals involved in both the Capitol riot and the Black Lives Matter protests, including questions on treatment before and after arrest.
Over 465 people have been arrested since supporters of Trump beached the Capitol seeking to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election.
The Department of Justice said this averages out to three defendants arrested every single day since Jan. 6.
The senators in their letter note that "no such database exists for alleged perpetrators of crimes associated with the spring and summer 2020 protests," alleging an "apparent unwillingness to punish these individuals who allegedly committed crimes during the spring and summer 2020 protests."
Republicans have repeatedly drawn equivalencies between last year’s protests and the events of Jan. 6, and have sought to downplay the Capitol riot.
Johnson faced backlash after saying in March that he might have been “a little concerned” if Black Lives Matter protestors stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as opposed to supporters of Trump.
The Wisconsin Republican later said the comment “has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with riots.”
While many of the demonstrations last year remained peaceful, some did result in looting and violence. The senators in their letter point to previous media reports that the protests caused more than $1 billion in property damage.
The senators allege that people who were criminally charged as part of last year’s demonstrations benefit from “infrequent prosecution and minimal, if any penalties.”
“Americans have the constitutional right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” the senators wrote. “However, the potential unequal administration of justice with respect to certain protestors is particularly concerning.”