Demonstrators who entered House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office to protest were compared to the rioters who participated in the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Seven people were arrested Monday after they occupied the offices of Republican leaders in the Capitol and demanded that Congress reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Terms of the program are set to expire at the end of September, but some Republican lawmakers are now jeopardizing the stability of the program, which is credited with saving more than 25 million lives.The protest was organized by advocacy group Housing Works and Health GAP (Global Access Project)
Video posted by Politico reporter Alice Miranda Ollstein on X (formerly Twitter) showed protesters on the floor of McCarthy’s office. They were seen linking arms and chanting “McCarthy, pass President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Now!”
A Capitol Police spokesman told Weekly newspaper Seven people (four men and three women) were arrested for illegal entry because they “refused to stop the demonstration.” Those convicted of misdemeanor illegal entry face up to six months in prison.
Orstein noted in a separate post that the protest took place at the Rayburn House Office Building, not the Capitol. “Activists did not break in,” Olstein added. “Peaceful demonstrations like this, where people are intentionally arrested, are fairly common on Capitol Hill.”
But some conservatives compared the incident to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump and questioned why demonstrators were not charged and convicted of federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. People who commit crimes are treated harshly like that.
“It’s a very sad day for democracy… are they going to be thrown in jail for years on end for this?” Collin Rugg, co-owner of the conservative outlet Trending Politics, wrote in the post on X.
“Activists stormed McCarthy’s office to stage a riot, demanding the five-year reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for Relief (PEPFAR), which was designed to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When Democrats do this, they are in an ‘occupation.’ If When Trump supporters do this, they are ‘traitors.'”
Political strategist Alex Lourusso called the protesters “far-left insurgents.”
“I’m assuming these people would be immediately locked up, put on a no-fly list, their homes searched, and sentenced to years in prison, right?” Lou Russo write on X.
“Is the Corrupt Justice Department Pursuing [sic] Do they like the J6 protesters? Will they be hunted down, destroyed, imprisoned? ” wrote Pamela Geller, who leads an anti-Muslim group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Five people were killed when armed Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Many people were injured in the melee, and two other officers later committed suicide.
More than 1,100 people have since been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. At least 600 of them were sentenced, about 400 of whom were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 days to 22 years.
The longest sentence to date was that of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio. Last week, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other offenses committed in connection with the riots.
His sentence is longer than the 18-year sentences of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and one-time Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean.
Trump was charged in Washington, D.C., with four counts of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election earlier this year, one of four criminal cases he faces as he seeks to regain the White House in 2024.
He also faces state charges in Georgia for trying to overturn that state’s election, a federal indictment in Florida accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents, and state charges in New York related to hush money payments during the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.
Weekly newspaper Capitol Police, McCarthy’s office, Bureau of Housing Works and Health GAP were contacted via email for comment.