Debunking the Pro-Trump Right’s Claims About the Jan. 6 Riot


Jan. 6 defendants haven’t been treated more harshly than racial justice protesters.

The assertion has become a staple on the right: Trump supporters were charged with violent crimes in the Capitol attack because of their conservative beliefs while many leftist activists had similar charges stemming from the racial justice protests last year in cities like Portland, Ore., reduced or dismissed.

This summer, a Jan. 6 defendant named Garret Miller filed court papers making that argument. Mr. Miller, who lives in Dallas, claimed he had been “treated differently by the government than the Portland rioters based upon the politics involved,” his lawyer wrote.

In rebutting these claims, the government argued there was no comparison between the protests last year prompted by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the storming of the Capitol. While prosecutors acknowledged that those arrested during weeks of unrest at the Portland federal courthouse had committed “serious offenses,” they insisted that the rioters in Washington were involved in “a singular and chilling event” that threatened not only the Capitol but also “democracy itself.”

Trying to explain why many cases in the racial justice protests were eventually dismissed, prosecutors also said they have much better evidence against Capitol rioters like Mr. Miller than they ever had against protesters in Portland. Among the material they collected after Jan. 6 were thousands of hours of video footage from surveillance and body cameras worn by the police, and hundreds of thousands of social media posts.

A few months after Mr. Miller filed his claims, The Associated Press published an analysis of more than 300 criminal cases stemming from the protests incited by Mr. Floyd’s murder. The analysis undercut the argument that pro-Trump defendants were treated more harshly than Black Lives Matter protesters, showing that many leftist rioters had received substantial sentences.

There’s no evidence that Jan. 6 defendants are being treated worse than others in jail.

Perhaps the loudest grievances about Capitol defendants concern the jail conditions of those denied bail.

The accusations have been many and wide-ranging. Some defendants have complained of being locked in their cells for 23 hours a day in what amounts to solitary confinement. Others have claimed that they have been denied the right to hold religious services and that their hygiene needs have been restricted.