02 Capitol BLM SPLIT
CNN reporter: I was handcuffed for much less than breaking into the Capitol
04:32 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Sixty-one: That’s the number of arrests Washington, DC, police made the day rioters laid siege to the Capitol in protest of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

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.

Numerous media outlets, including CNN, have provided comparisons between the arrests during Wednesday’s siege and those made during the summer’s Black Lives Matters protests in the capital.

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

LGBT protesters perform a sit-in outside the US Supreme Court.

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

Police move back protesters at a climate change demonstration on Capitol Hill.

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

Capitol Police arrest protesters from disabled rights groups as they interrupt a Senate hearing.

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

Police officers pepper spray protesters before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump in 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

Capitol Police arrest demonstrators protesting US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

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.

316 Black Lives Matter protesters, June 1, 2020

A police officer charges forward during Black Lives Matter protests in front of the White House.

Many found themselves asking Wednesday: Where are the police and military?

No one asked such questions in June, when Black Lives Matter protesters, decrying the deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police, took to the streets to find military helicopters hovering over the city, National Guard troops patrolling the streets and tear gas filling the air.

An analysis of Metropolitan Police Department data shows local police arrested five times as many people during the Floyd protests as they did during last week’s insurrection.

372 Keystone pipeline protesters, March 2, 2014

Students in front of the White House demonstrate against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

As President Barack Obama’s administration reviewed plans for the $5.3 billion Keystone XL pipeline, almost 1,000 demonstrators marched from Georgetown University to Secretary of State John Kerry’s home and then to the White House, where they acted out a “human oil spill.”

Other demonstrators zip-tied their hands to the White House fence and lay on tarps in front of White House, urging Obama to reject the project. In the end, Lelani Woods, a spokeswoman for US Park Police, told The Washington Post that 372 people were taken into custody.

400+ ‘Democracy Spring’ activists, April 11, 2016

Capitol Police arrest "Democracy Spring" protesters participating in a sit-in at the U.S. Capitol.

It began in Philadelphia with protesters from several groups marching 150 miles south to stage a sit-in on the Capitol steps, denouncing the influence of big money on politics and Congress’ refusal to reverse it. On a single day of the lengthy protests, Capitol Police arrested more than 400 people for “unlawful demonstration activity,” and they were charged with crowding, obstructing and incommoding.

While the Progressive Change Campaign Committee cast the demonstrations as “nonviolent civil disobedience,” aimed at starting conversations on “key democracy issues,” numerous media outlets reported more than 900 arrests during the protests. Salon pegged the final tally at 1,240 over a week of protests.

575 immigration policy protesters, June 28, 2018

Protesters line up as they're arrested in the Hart Senate Office Building.

More than 1,000 women marched through Washington, protesting the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, was among the hundreds arrested, according to Capitol Police.

The demonstrations were largely peaceful. Protesters scarcely argued with the officers arresting them, who in most cases declined to even employ handcuffs in taking the women into custody. Several Democratic lawmakers – including Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who arrived with her infant in tow – showed up to express their support for the demonstration.

12,000+ Vietnam War opponents, May 1, 1971

Police in riot gear surround protesters in hippie attire during the 1971 May Day protests.

This isn’t officially included on this list. It isn’t the fairest comparison, given that half a century has passed and the country looks markedly different than it did in 1971. But the May Day protests against the Vietnam War have been described as the “largest mass arrest” and “largest mass acquittal” of demonstrators in US history.

Five thousand police, backed by 1,400 National Guardsman, greeted the 35,000 protesters descending on Washington that day, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Anyone and everyone who looked at all freaky … was scooped up off the street,” one protester said, according to an ACLU article. A federal court later agreed, saying, “The innocent as well as the guilty were in large numbers swept from the streets and placed in detention facilities.”

An ACLU victory resulted in acquittals for almost all of the protesters, allowing them to collect monetary damages for their mistreatment, the civil rights group said.

CNN’s Casey Tolan, Gregory Krieg, Leah Asmelash, Sophie Tatum and Mary Grace Lucas contributed to this report.