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The Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police department said Thursday morning that 69 people were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the pro-Trump mob invasion of the US Capitol building on Wednesday, a far smaller figure than the number arrested during anti-racism protests in the summer of 2020.
The DC Metro police assisted the Capitol Police force, which secures the Capitol building and was in charge of the response to the mob. A representative for the Capitol Police referred Insider to the DC Metro police’s figures when asked for arrest statistics following Wednesday’s riot.
Capitol Police drew criticism for the breach, the gravest attack in the halls of Congress in 200 years. Rioters broke through police barriers, shattered glass windows to invade, and stormed through Congressional chambers.
The approach Capitol Police used on the mob was distinct from how police forces in the city handled protesters in the summer of 2020, during anti-racism demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd.
A tabulation from Insider shows that officers in DC arrested 194 people during a protest in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death. They also arrested 234 people protesting the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January 2017.
Elsewhere, protests in Minneapolis after Floyd’s death resulted in 570 arrests and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Michael Brown, another Black man, resulted in at least 400 arrests.
None of those events involved a violent attack on one of the three branches of US government. Most were overwhelmingly peaceful.
Another major event engineered by right-wing extremists, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, resulted in only eight arrests in the immediate aftermath.
The mob on Wednesday was spurred on by Trump, who told a rally of his supporters that morning to march on to Congress and demand that Vice President Mike Pence block the certification of electoral college votes.
Pence doesn’t have the power to do that. American voters decided months ago that President-elect Joe Biden would become the next president of the United States, defeating Trump at the ballot box.
Wednesday’s vote-counting is normally a ceremonial event, but Trump has pushed debunked conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud. Congress reconvened hours after the invasion and ultimately confirmed the vote count, though more than 100 Republican members still objected, even as many of them were elected on the very same ballots.
Trump opposed the anti-racism protests following George Floyd’s death in the summer of 2020. His attorney general at the time, Bill Barr, ordered law enforcement officials to forcefully remove protesters near the White House on June 1, when 194 people were arrested.
Additional arrests have been made in the weeks, months, and years of each of the other events in Insider’s tabulation, and law enforcement officials say they plan to pursue more charges following Wednesday’s riot.
The Capitol Hill Police has more than 2,300 members in its force, although some were unable to be employed Wednesday because they were infected with the coronavirus or forced to quarantine because of exposure. The Ferguson police department, by comparison, had only around 50 members in 2014.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on Steven Sund, the chief of the Capitol Police, to resign. She said the House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving intended to resign. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate majority leader, said he would fire Michael Stenger, the Senate Sargeant-at-Arms.
In a statement on Thursday, Sund said his officers “responded valiantly” to the mob that overtook the Capitol building.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press conference Thursday that Congress must create a commission to understand the “catastrophic security failures” at the Capitol and ask “why the law enforcement response was stronger during the protests over the summer.”
In a statement on Thursday, former first lady Michelle Obama said the racial disparities following the Capitol insurrection were on clear display.
“For those who call others unpatriotic for simply taking a knee in silent protest, for those who wonder why we need to be reminded that Black Lives Matter at all, yesterday made it painfully clear that certain Americans are, in fact, allowed to denigrate the flag and symbols of our nation,” Obama wrote. “They’ve just got to look the right way.”
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