Attorney General Bill Barr faced sharply partisan questioning by the House Judiciary Committee about the Trump administration’s response to riots around the country today, including one bizarre attempt by Rep. Primila Jayapal (D-WA) to chide Barr for not sending in federal law enforcement after armed protesters legally entered the Michigan state capitol building back in April as part of a anti-lockdown protest.
There were plenty of capitol police officers on hand during that protest, but no arrests were made because no laws were broken. Despite that, Jayapal seems to believe that the lawful exercise of the right to keep and bear arms should result in a federal show of force.
“When white men with swastikas storm a government building with guns, there is no need for the president to ‘activate’ you, because they’re getting the president’s personal agenda done,” U.S. Rep. Primila Jayapal (D-Washington) said during confrontational questioning of Barr, who was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee.
“But when black people and people of color protest police brutality, systemic racism and the president’s very own lack of response to those critical issues, then you forcibly remove them with armed federal officers (and) pepper bombs because they are considered terrorists by the president.”
“Are you aware that these protesters called for the governor to be lynched, shot and beheaded?”
Jayapal wasn’t the only member of Congress to bring up the Michigan protest. According to DeadlineDetroit.com, Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin also suggested that Barr should have deployed federal law enforcement to Michigan in the wake of the protest that only lasted a few hours.
“You didn’t send a secret paramilitary police force on horseback to unleash tear gas and pepper spray, billy clubs and rubber bullets against these protesters storming the state capitol of Michigan,” Raskin said. “No, you embraced their cause by joining litigation against the governors of Michigan and Virginia. Now, of course your side lost your motions for emergency injunctions, but you got to spread Trump’s message that it was time to call off the stay-at-home orders, the masking and social distancing.”
Pure political theater, and a complete rewriting of recent history. Nobody “stormed the state capitol of Michigan.” People were lawfully protesting, and yes, a couple dozen of them were legally carrying firearms. After a few hours, the reopen protest ended, the protesters went home without breaking so much as a lightbulb or scuffing the floor. There was no riot, and in questioning the lack of a federal response to a one-off peaceful protest, both Jayapal and Raskin have raised far more questions about their own beliefs regarding federal law enforcement as an appropriate response to protests than any questions they might have raised about Barr’s actions.
Comparing the 60+ nights of riots in Portland to a 3-hour protest in Lansing is deeply unserious, but then again, Democrats in general were deeply unserious in their questioning of the Attorney General. Intent on portraying the deployment of a few dozen federal law enforcement officials to protect the federal courthouse as an act of outright fascism, House Democrats ended up beclowning themselves in front of the cameras. By suggesting that a boisterous, yet legal and peaceable assembly deserved tear gas and rubber bullets, on the other hand, demonstrates that these Democrats don’t really have much of a problem with the heavy hand of authoritarianism at all.. as long as they’re the authority.