At least 90 people have been arrested and face federal charges in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday (January 6). Six people have died following the mob violence unleashed by supporters of President Donald Trump, who’d refused to concede November’s election results and rallied his base with disastrous results.
“The lawless destruction of the U.S. Capitol building was an attack against one of our nation’s greatest institutions,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin. “We are resolute in our commitment to holding accountable anyone responsible for these disgraceful criminal acts, and to anyone who might be considering engaging in or inciting violence in the coming weeks – know this: you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The cases are being prosecuted by the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and are being investigated jointly by the FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Capitol Police; and the Metropolitan Police Department.
Dozens of individuals have been charged with federal crimes. They range from making interstate threats to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money, property, or records. Others have been charged with possession of unregistered firearms, and explosive devices such as Molotov cocktails.
“[These] charges are just the beginning of the FBI’s ongoing efforts to hold those responsible for the criminal acts of violence and destruction that unfolded during the U.S. Capitol building breach,” said FBI director Christopher Wray in a statement. “To be clear, what took place that day was not First Amendment-protected activity, but rather an affront on our democracy.”
President-elect Joe Biden, vice-president elect Kamala Harris, Black lawmakers, civil rights leaders and activists have decried the double standard in how predominantly white, male protestors–some avowed nationalists–were handled by law enforcement, versus the harsh treatment of Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
“To see this happening in the halls of Congress with the Confederate flag as their banner requires an immediate and proportional response from Congressional leadership,” Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC told ESSENCE in a statement. “There must be accountability and consequences.”
Congress is weighing a second impeachment of Trump, and many Democrats are urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment that would remove the 45th commander in chief from office. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he has spoken with the FBI director and urged him “to relentlessly pursue the mob of violent insurrectionists” and guard against potential future attacks.
“The threat of violent extremist groups remains high and the next few weeks are critical in our democratic process with the upcoming inauguration at the U.S. Capitol to swear in President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,” Schumer said in a statement. He noted that the “incendiary, dangerous rhetoric online that occurred before January 6– a warning–has only escalated since.
Over the weekend, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, saying she is “extremely concerned” about the threat of more violence as inauguration preparations unfold. Covid-19 has largely shifted the ceremonies to virtual events, but Biden and Harris are slated to take their oaths in person.
“We believe strongly that the 59th Presidential Inauguration on January 20 will require a very different approach than previous inaugurations given the chaos, injury, and death experienced at the United States Capitol during the insurrection,” said Bowser in a January 9 letter to Acting Homeland Secretary Chad F. Wolf. “While I will be reaching out to a broad range of local, regional, and federal partners to enhance cooperation among our bodies, I strongly urge [Homeland Security] to adjust its approach to the Inauguration….”she wrote.