The myth that January 6 Capitol rioters are getting harsher punishments than protesters who took the streets against police brutality last year is being busted after a closer look at court documents reveals a different story.
The Associated Press reviewed the documents of more than 300 federal cases involving protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020. The outlet found that over 120 people have pleaded guilty or were convicted of federal crimes including arson, rioting, and conspiracy. More than 70 of the people in the cases received an average of 27 months in prison and at least 10 people have been sentenced to five years or more in prison.
Conversely, at least 19 people charged in the January 6 insurrection have received no prison time or time served, according to the AP’s review. Many defendants in the cases stemming from the deadly riot have pleaded guilty to lesser charges like misdemeanor assault. Others were convicted of civil disorder.
A Different Story
Some who’ve defended Capitol rioters –– who attacked federal lawmakers over false election claims made by Donald Trump–– have long compared the deadly insurrection to the protests against police killings of Black people and centuries of racial oppression. The AP’s review of court records underlines the racial tensions and the flawed basis of their arguments.
“The property damage or accusations of arson and looting from last year, those were serious and they were dealt with seriously, but they weren’t an attack on the very core constitutional processes that we rely on in a democracy, nor were they an attack on the United States Congress,” Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College, told the outlet.
Following the insurrection, many made the observation that had the Capitol rioters been Black, the outcome of the deadly event would have gone differently. Sen. Ron Johnson even admitted he would have been more “afraid” had the insurrectionists had been Black.
Comparisons of law enforcement’s response to protests against police brutality last summer to the delayed show of force to Capitol rioters were also made.
Several of the officers on the ground during the attack described to the Congressional committee charged with investigating the January 6 attack their harrowing fight to keep lawmakers safe. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, the officers told the committee the physical and emotional turmoil they still endure as a result of the attack.
The Department of Justice is still processing the cases of those charged with their involvement in the Capitol attack. The AP also found that since Joe Biden took office, federal prosecutors have brought new cases stemming from protests against police brutality.