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Douglas Andrews / June 4, 2021

Cruel and Unusual Punishment for the Capitol Rioters

Our nation’s two-tiered justice system is on full display with the treatment of these political protesters.

They keep calling it “The People’s House,” but it’s not — at least not anymore. The National Guard may finally be gone, but the U.S. Capitol is now Nancy Pelosi’s House, Chuck Schumer’s House, Joe Biden’s House. And it has been since January 6.

But worse than that, the Capitol is now a symbol of both elitism and two-tiered justice: elitism on the part of our elected representatives, who don’t give a rip when real rioting comes to our inner cities and leaves real businesses and real people in ruins, but who head for the fainting couch when an unarmed non-insurrection comes to their neck of the woods; and two-tiered justice for the dozens of pro-Trump Capitol protesters, who’ve been languishing in a DC-area jail for months while waiting to be tried for crimes ranging from the petty to the semi-serious, while the authentic thugs of antifa and Black Lives Matter simply skate away from their criminality without any accountability.

Remember last year, when those easily identifiable vandals yanked down or otherwise defiled one statue after another all across America? Or burned and looted and rioted in one urban center after another? Remember when those Portland hoodlums assaulted federal officers and tried to burn down a federal courthouse? Right, then, off ya go.

Not so for the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol.

Investigative journalist Julie Kelly has written compellingly about the January 6 detainees, whose punishment for having protested the results of the 2020 presidential election is Job One for Joe, Nancy, and Attorney General Merrick Garland. “So far,” she writes, “more than 400 people have been arrested in the nationwide manhunt with more charges to come, and at the same time, emerging evidence proves law enforcement allowed protestors to enter and remain in the building.”

We wonder: How strong is the trespassing case — which is what most of these cases are — when law enforcement doesn’t attempt to stop the trespassers from trespassing? And are there really no more pressing matters than this for our Department of Justice? Is there really nothing more important than to make the harshest example possible of a disorganized mob of pro-Trump protesters?

Apparently not. As the Daily Wire reports, “The U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C., has called in prosecutors from … the Violent Crime Narcotics Trafficking Section, Homicide Section, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section, and Major Crimes Section. In some cases the prosecutors from those departments are prosecuting misdemeanors only.”

Imagine the stuck-pig squealing we’d have heard if John Durham had enlisted the help of such heavy hitters to prosecute his Russia collusion investigation. Does anyone doubt that FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith would’ve gotten just a slap on the wrist for the very real crime of having falsified evidence for a FISA warrant to spy on a sitting U.S. president? That’s two-tiered justice: one standard for the Left and another for the Right.

As Politico reported on April 19, most of the protesters who were arrested have since been released to await their trials, “but dozens of those deemed to be dangerous, flight risks or at high risk of obstructing justice were ordered held without bond [and] placed in so-called restrictive housing — a move billed as necessary to keep the defendants safe, as well as guards and other inmates.”

“Restrictive housing” is a euphemism for 23-hour-a-day isolation. But by all means, let’s keep the guards and the hardened criminals safe from those middle-aged, beer-bellied “white supremacists” with the MAGA hats and the Trump flags.

To the everlasting shame of House and Senate Republicans, the issue of the detainees’ treatment has been taken up not by them but by two Senate Democrats, Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin. Let that sink in.

“Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Warren said in an interview. “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.” Warren rightly believes they’re being punished into cooperation. Durbin says solitary confinement should be “a rare exception” with “clear justification.”

So just where are all those Republicans? Those constitutional conservatives? When Big Government statists like Warren and Durbin are stronger champions of their political opponents’ constitutional rights than the entire GOP caucus, something’s wrong. Really wrong. Disgracefully wrong.

Most of the detainees have no criminal record, and yet, as Kelly writes, “The jail allows them to leave their cells for an hour a day. Religious services are not allowed; they can’t exercise and access to personal hygiene such as showers is nearly nonexistent, according to defense lawyers and relatives I’ve spoken with.”

How are these not the sort of “cruel and unusual punishments” forbidden by the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment? And where’s the “speedy and public trial” as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment?

These people aren’t killers. They’re political protesters. They don’t believe Joe Biden got all 81 million of those votes on the up-and-up, and they certainly don’t believe that this flawed election was properly investigated and adjudicated. And for those beliefs, the Democrats want to punish them, cruelly and unusually. That’s the real Capitol offense.

Joe Biden called the January 6 riot “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” It’s a claim that’s both laughable and shameful. And let’s remember: The only person killed during that “deadly insurrection” was 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed 14-year Air Force veteran who was shot by a still-unnamed Capitol policeman.

Where’s the justice in that? And where’s the justice in any of this?

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