GOP lawmaker compares protesters to 'insurrectionists' who started Civil War

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Tech groups take aim at Texas Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services Debt ceiling fight pits corporate America against Republicans MORE (R-Ark.) doubled down on his call for federal law enforcement officials to be sent to U.S. cities amid protests over racial inequality as he compared the demonstrators to the “insurrectionists” who started the Civil War and seceded from the United States. 

“The federal government cannot allow anarchists and insurrectionists to destroy federal courthouses, federal buildings, or other federal property. These insurrectionists in the streets of Portland are little different from the insurrectionists who seceded from the Union in 1861 in South Carolina and tried to take over Fort Sumter,” Cotton said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends,” referring to protests in the Oregon city. 

“Just like President Lincoln wouldn't stand for that, the federal government today can not stand for the vandalism, the firebombing or any attacks on federal property," he added. "It is right to send federal law enforcement in to defend federal property and federal facilities."


The senator’s comments on Fox News follow an op-ed he wrote last month, published by The New York Times, calling for a military response to the nationwide protests sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd. 

The Times was widely criticized, including from numerous Times staffers, for publishing Cotton’s op-ed. Several Times staffers argued that publishing Cotton’s sentiments endangered the lives of Black journalists at the newspaper. 

Cotton’s criticism of the Portland protesters, comparing them to “insurrectionists who seceded from the Union,” also follows his previous defense of monuments honoring Confederate figures. 

In 2017, the senator told The Associated Press he thinks it is “best to keep our history in front of us and learn from it,” when asked about Confederate monuments. 

“I think that it is a debate that should occur. I wouldn’t support the kind of midnight teardown of statues or monuments because I don’t think that serves the civic purpose of considering our history and thinking about whatever those monuments stand for,” he said at the time. 


“In general, I think it’s best to keep our history in front of us and learn from it so we don’t repeat some of the mistakes we have made as individuals or as a people in the past,” he added. 

Last month, as protesters targeted Confederate monuments, Cotton said he would introduce a bill to provide a mandatory one-year minimum sentence for those who injure or destroy monuments “dedicated to our most gallant American heroes.”

"Vandals are defacing and tearing down of statues of our esteemed forefathers such as George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant with reckless abandon. At a minimum they should face one year in prison for this crime," he said in a statement in June. 

Cotton’s statement was issued days after the city of Little Rock, Ark., removed a statue from a city park honoring a militia unit that formed to fight for the Confederacy. 

Democrats have criticized President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE and his administration for sending federal law enforcement officials to Portland amid reports that the federal officials are using unmarked vehicles to detain protesters without identifying themselves or reading the Miranda rights. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said Sunday on CNN that the presence of federal law enforcement is leading to more violence in the city and called for their removal. 

However, Trump on Monday praised the job federal agents are doing in Portland and named several other cities he is considering sending federal agents.