Rioters at Capitol Face Long-Term Prosecutions As Police in Washington Pledge to Pursue Them
WASHINGTON — Washington’s mayor and the FBI are pledging to track down and prosecute any protesters who broke the law during the riot at the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday.
They are posting photos and videos from the mob violence on Internet sites while asking members of the public to help identify them.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, who called in the National Guard to assist police during the breach of the Capitol, said she is reviewing options “both to hold people accountable and to ensure it never happens again.”
The violence was prompted by what is normally a routine procedure in Congress to certify Electoral College votes showing Joe Biden won the November presidential election. President Donald Trump and his supporters insist the election was corrupted by voter fraud and should be overturned by Congress.
Congress adjourned for a few hours during the rioting but returned to certify that Biden won the election.
By then, vandals who support Trump had ransacked the Capitol. One protester was shot and killed by a police officer. A curfew extended over the District of Columbia and its Virginia suburbs.
Bowser put some of the blame on Trump.
“We know that the current president must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy,” she said.
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee implied the arrests and prosecutions are likely to continue for a lengthy period of time.
“We still have a significant amount of work ahead of us” to find the persons who broke into the Capitol, fought with police and vandalized the building, Contee said.
Only one of the 68 people arrested during or after the riot was from the District of Columbia, Contee said. The others would need to be found in many other parts of the United States.
In addition, 56 Washington, D.C., police officers were injured.
Regardless of difficulties, Contee said he plans “to pursue those responsible for these shameful and dangerous acts.”
The FBI and Justice Department attorneys issued statements of support for efforts to find anyone who broke the law during the riot.
The FBI set up a tip line for members of the public to identify protesters who breached the Capitol.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement, “As we’ve said consistently, we do not tolerate violent agitators and extremists who use the guise of First Amendment-protected activity to incite violence and wreak havoc. Such behavior betrays the values of our democracy. Make no mistake: With our partners, we will hold accountable those who participated in yesterday’s siege of the Capitol.”
Merrick Garland, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice as U.S. Attorney General, referred to the riot when he said Thursday at a press conference, “The rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase. It is the very foundation of democracy.”
Opinions among some passersby in front of the Capitol Thursday echoed comments by police.
Roman Istomin, 32, a software engineer from Washington, D.C., said police were too lenient on the “rioters.”
“That was no way to deal with them,” Istomin said. “Now they should be prosecuted.”
Chris Smith, 31, a New York City construction industry worker, agreed police should pursue any protesters who broke the law.
“They were fascists,” he said. “Nobody can doubt that.”
Jayme Staten, a 28-year-old clothing boutique owner from Deckerville, Mich., counted herself among protesters at the Capitol but said she did not enter the building or endorse the violence.
“I believe anybody that was caught looting, vandalizing or breaking things should be charged,” she said.
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