More have been arrested since, and several jurisdictions are now involved in hunting down the supporters of President Donald Trump who invaded and ransacked the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to affirm Biden’s win. Some are already facing federal charges.
Yet during an episode described as insurrection and an attempted coup, police made only 61 “unrest-related” arrests that day – and only about half of those were on Capitol grounds, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said last week.
It’s valuable context, for sure, and raises important discussions about police and race, but a longer view shows the BLM protests were but one example where police in the nation’s capital seemed ready to respond with the full force of the law.
Here are some examples, by the numbers:
133 LGBTQ activists, October 8, 2019
Just across First Street from the Capitol, the US Supreme Court was set to hear arguments in three cases that many gay rights supporters felt would dictate the level of protection they’d receive under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title VII’s employment rules.
Activists sat in First Street in an act of civil disobedience, reported the Washington Blade, an LGBTQ news outlet that quoted US Capitol Police saying the demonstrators were charged with crowding, obstructing and incommoding.
147 climate change protesters, January 10, 2020
Actor Jane Fonda’s “fire drill Fridays” produced numerous arrests – many of them celebrities – in late 2019 and early 2020, as the ex-wife of CNN founder Ted Turner took her anger over climate change inaction to the capital.
In the 14th week of protests, Joaquin Phoenix and Martin Sheen were among the stars who found themselves in custody, as Capitol Police verified scores of people were charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding.
181 Obamacare supporters, September 25, 2017
When the GOP began attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the summer of 2017, protests erupted week after week in the capital, spurring several days of arrests. On two separate days in July, Capitol Police confirmed to CNN officers had arrested 80 and then 155 protesters who had entered the halls of Congress to engage in peaceful protests – sit-ins, chanting, lying on the ground and the like.
The largest single-day arrest count from the protests, however, came in September, when demonstrators – many of whom, Reuters reported, were in wheelchairs (most of them belonged to a disability rights group) – delayed a Senate hearing. Capitol Police began rounding them up en masse.
Fifteen were charged with disrupting Congress and 166 were charged with crowding, disrupting or incommoding, with 23 of those facing an additional charge of resisting arrest, according to Capitol Police.
217 Trump inauguration protesters, January 20, 2017
As demonstrations broke out across the country, police in the nation’s capital dealt with ugly street clashes between police and antifa in downtown Washington.
Six officers were injured, and police deployed pepper spray after, CNN reported, “Bursts of chaos erupted on 12th and K streets as black-clad ‘antifascist’ protesters smashed storefronts and bus stops, hammered out the windows of a limousine and eventually launched rocks at a phalanx of police lined up in an eastbound crosswalk. Officers responded by launching smoke and flash-bang devices, which could be heard from blocks away, into the street to disperse the crowds.”
302 Brett Kavanaugh opponents, October 4, 2018
Several days of protest over the nomination of Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court yielded hundreds of arrests, but many of them came on a single day, as lawmakers reviewed an FBI report outlining allegations against the would-be justice.
It was another star-studded affair, as comedian Amy Schumer and model Emily Ratajkowski were among those taken into custody.
The arrests began mid-afternoon with 293 people arrested for unlawfully demonstrating in a Senate building and nine more arrested later in another Senate building, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said. All were charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding, the department said.