Equal treatment under the law, right? I think every American agrees that when it comes to law enforcement all citizens should be treated the same way.
So, how to explain the disparity in post-arrest treatment between last year’s George Floyd protesters and this year’s detainees from the breach at the U.S. Capitol?
Nothing that follows should be construed as condoning the behavior of those who forcibly invaded our most iconic building on Jan. 6. We were all shocked watching the live TV coverage of the mob, literally, breaking into the Capitol and vandalizing the interior as lawmakers began to ratify the presidential election. It took security forces about four hours to get the situation under control. To date about 580 people have been arrested.
Now, months later, multiple dozens of those conservative-leaning defendants continue to be held in jail. The attorney for one of about 40 defendants still in custody in the District of Columbia jail says his client has been held more than five months, kept in solitary confinement for long stretches and, in violation of his constitutional rights, has been unable to privately communicate with counsel to aid in his own defense. Attorneys for other Jan. 6 defendants who remain locked up have similar complaints.
By contrast, the liberal-leaning BLM/Antifa-led demonstrations which began last May raged for months, people were killed, city and federal buildings were set on fire, countless businesses were looted and destroyed. Peaceful protests turned violent in many states, and more than 10,000 were arrested. I can’t find reliable information as to how many might still be in custody, if any, but I do know that, for the most part, those protesters were either shooed away from violent crime scenes or arrested and promptly released. Some Democratic district attorneys in Portland, Oregon, New York and Los Angles, to name just three, announced they would not pursue prosecutions against many of those charged.
Look, did the Jan. 6 protesters violate the law? You bet they did if they were anywhere inside that most sacred federal building that day. Are some of them members of the extremist right wing conservative group Proud Boys or the association of military, police and first responders called Oath Keepers which pledges to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic?” Yes, they are. But since when is it okay to keep people locked up because we don’t like their ideology?
Ah, maybe you’re thinking, “But the Jan. 6 protesters acted like a terrorist organization and attacked a federal building!” Well, did you see similar treatment for BLM or Antifa members after they organized and set fire to the federal courthouse in Portland last summer? And after protective fencing came down and another fiery mob attacked the same building in March, 2021 only one person was arrested. Darby Howard, a guy with a face full of tattoos, including an Antifa symbol the size of a salad plate on his neck, was arrested for criminal mischief, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
The FBI is still tracking down and arresting more suspects from the Capitol rampage. And, the first felony conviction of a Capitol rioter occurred in a federal courtroom in Tampa. The prosecutor admitted Paul Hodgkins, 38, did not engage in violence and was not charged with assaulting anyone or damaging any property. But once Hodgkins was inside, where he could plainly see the chaos ahead of him, “What did he do?” the prosecutor asked the court. “He walks toward it. He doesn’t walk away.” Hodgkins, who carried a large red-and-white Trump flag that day, apologized profusely for his actions and then was sentenced to eight months in prison.
You break the law, you pay the consequences. If law enforcement had pursued the same round-’em-up-and-jail-’em tactics with the Portland rioters last year I wonder if that city would have been spared the more than 120 straight days of rioting that destroyed so many businesses along with city and federal properties.
I guess we’ll never know how the leniency in Portland and several other major cities might have fed the anger of those who then stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Crime is cyclical. Once a criminal gets away unpunished, chances are the mayhem will spread.