On Wednesday, dozens of protesters entered the Cannon Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol complex, where some carried Palestinian flags and called for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. According to The Messenger, over 1,000 attended the protest, although many of them remained outside. Protest leaders also claimed that as many as 400 people were arrested.
Why were they arrested? According to the U.S. Capitol Police, “Demonstrations are not allowed inside Congressional Buildings.”
“We warned the protestors to stop demonstrating and when they did not comply we began arresting them,” the Capitol Police went on to say. “Amongst these arrests, three people have been arrested and charged with Assault on a Police Officer during processing.”
Those arrested were members of the groups known as IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, and many of them were Jewish people who objected to Israel’s actions. The protest took place in the Cannon building, which is part of the Capitol complex but is not in the U.S. Capitol building itself.
Protesting Double Standards?
Naturally, this called to mind another occasion when a group of protesters entered the Capitol when they weren’t supposed to: The January 6 insurrection in 2021. Numerous conservative pundits drew that conclusion on Thursday.
“Apparently it’s ok to storm the Capitol, stage an insurrection inside, and interrupt a congressional hearing,” Benny Johnson posted to X. “But only if you’re protesting on behalf of Palestine.”
“There’s an insurrection happening now on Capitol Hill,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) posted to X, along with a video.
“What happened today was an actual insurrection. Where’s the media coverage?,” conservative actor Kevin Sorbo posted Wednesday.
There are, of course, key differences. For one thing, the “it’s ok to storm the Capitol” comment from Johnson implies that the protesters on Wednesday got away with something, and were treated with kid gloves by the justice system. In fact, there were reportedly hundreds of arrests. And contrary to Sorbo’s post, there was plenty of media coverage as well.
The other big differences are of a piece: There was none of the sort of behavior that led to the most serious charges against January 6 participants. There is no indication of a seditious conspiracy, or of a plan to obstruct an official proceeding of Congress – nor were the protests intended to an end such as blocking the certification of the election for president of the United States.
Less Serious Charges Likely
Those arrested Wednesday will likely end up facing charges similar to those of the less serious charges faced by January 6 defendants.
It doesn’t appear that anyone from the Wednesday protest is being accused of making or posing a physical threat to any particular member of Congress, or chanting for the hanging of the vice president of the United States. Nor did any of the protesters Wednesday break onto the floor of either House of Congress, or into the offices of members of Congress. They didn’t even make it to the actual Capitol building.
Others, including Greene, have implied that Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) had “instigated” the protests, although there is little indication that there is any truth to that. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, drew fire last week for posting a Palestinian flag outside her office, and later for pushing the reports — since largely discredited — that Israel had bombed a hospital in Gaza.
If the implication is that Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow would not be protesting against Israel’s actions if not for Tlaib’s encouragement, that seems self-evidently not true.
“Since folks asked, and some (apparently including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene) seem confused by it: Protests in this Capitol area rotunda are quite common, as are peaceful protests that result in one-by-one peaceful arrests. I cover them a lot,” reporter Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service, said on X. Jenkins had reported on past protests in which nuns were arrested in the same spot, although he recognized that this protest was larger than most.
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.