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GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot

GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot
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Five Senate Republicans are alleging "unequal" treatment by the Department of Justice in its handling of criminal prosecutions for those who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 compared to those involved in vandalism and violence during last summer's social justice protests across the country.

The senators wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBiden emphasizes investment in police, communities to combat crime Watch live: Biden, Garland deliver remarks on gun crime prevention Energized Trump probes pose problems for Biden MORE seeking information on the “potential unequal justice administered," emphasizing that they believed "criminals" should be held accountable in both examples. 

The senators are seeking answers to 18 questions regarding the Justice Department's pursuit of individuals involved in both the Capitol riot and the Black Lives Matter protests, including questions on treatment before and after arrest.

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The letter was signed by GOP Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Overnight Defense: Senate panel delays Iraq war powers repeal | Study IDs Fort Hood as least-safe base for female soldiers | Pentagon loosens some COVID-19 restrictions MORE (Wis.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzNew Jersey governor tweaks Cruz on Cancun over moving truck quip Hirono tells Ted Cruz to stop 'mansplaining' Senate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeDemocrats block GOP bill to lift mask mandate on public transportation Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC MORE (Utah), Rick Scott (Fla.), and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.) — all staunch supporters of former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE.

Over 465 people have been arrested since supporters of Trump beached the Capitol seeking to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election.

The Department of Justice said this averages out to three defendants arrested every single day since Jan. 6.

The senators in their letter note that "no such database exists for alleged perpetrators of crimes associated with the spring and summer 2020 protests," alleging an "apparent unwillingness to punish these individuals who allegedly committed crimes during the spring and summer 2020 protests."

Republicans have repeatedly drawn equivalencies between last year’s protests and the events of Jan. 6, and have sought to downplay the Capitol riot.

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Johnson faced backlash after saying in March that he might have been “a little concerned” if Black Lives Matter protestors stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as opposed to supporters of Trump.

The Wisconsin Republican later said the comment “has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with riots.”

While many of the demonstrations last year remained peaceful, some did result in looting and violence. The senators in their letter point to previous media reports that the protests caused more than $1 billion in property damage. 

The senators allege that people who were criminally charged as part of last year’s demonstrations benefit from “infrequent prosecution and minimal, if any penalties.”

“Americans have the constitutional right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances,” the senators wrote. “However, the potential unequal administration of justice with respect to certain protestors is particularly concerning.”