On, January 6th, 2021, the day that Congress was scheduled to formally certify the Electoral College votes and officially confirm President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ win, Americans and world leaderswatched as a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building. The violent and deadly events that transpired on that day began not long after President Trump delivered remarks at a rally, where he encouraged his supporters to march to the capitol and protest the results of the election. The mob, which breached the capitol walls while Congress was in joint session, clashed with capitol police, vandalized and stole property, and attacked capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who later succumbed to his injuries, was eventually cleared out of the building later that evening so that Congress could continue the certification process.
In the days following the riots at the U.S. Capitol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice began to identify those that were involved by enlisting the help of the public and by using social media and smartphone technology. The DOJ, which has received over 140,000 tips identifying capitol rioters, has arrested and charged over 100 individuals, some with alleged ties to violent right-wing extremist groups. Notable rioters, such as Richard Barnett, the man who was pictured sitting with his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk was arrested and is now in custody awaiting a new bail hearing this week, while Adam Christian Johnson, who was pictured carrying her lectern through the building was arrested, charged, and released on bond. On Monday, January 18th, the FBI also confirmed the arrest of a woman who a witness claims had stolen a laptop or hard drive from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the capitol riots. The woman, Riley June Williams, allegedly had plans to “funnel” the equipment to Russia, where it would be sold to Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
The scope of the investigation into who attended and committed crimes during the capital riots also involves off-duty police officers and members of Congress. Police departments across the U.S. have launched investigations into whether any of their officers attended participated in the riot. According to NPR, at least 13 police officers are suspected of having participated in the capitol riot. Some police officers who have been identified have been fired, while others have tendered their resignations due to possible federal charges. The capitol police are also investigating claims that the riot was an “inside job” due to allegations that several Republican members of Congress helped organize the event, while others were giving “reconnaissance” tours to groups of pro-Trump supporters the day before the riot.
It has been over two weeks since the violent and deadly capital riots took place and the number of arrests will continue to grow as both federal and local agencies continue to work towards identifying those that were involved.
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.
The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: Explain how authorities have used digital evidence from social media and smartphones to identify and arrest individuals who participated in the capitol riots.
- Debate: Do you believe that sedition and conspiracy charges should only be reserved for the capitol rioters who committed the most heinous acts?
- Poll: Members of Congress who were complicit in the capitol riot should be removed from office and criminally sanctioned to for their actions. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Discuss the different types of federal charges that capitol rioters are facing.
Cover Image: © iStockphoto.com/YingYang