The top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts said Thursday that anyone who traveled to Washington, D.C., with plans to join the violence that erupted in the Capitol on Wednesday will face criminal charges brought by his office.
“Yesterday’s events in Washington were shocking and, once peaceful demonstrations turned violent, they became criminal,” said US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in a statement. “The Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech and assembly. What is does not protect is a violent assault on government institutions.”
Lelling, an appointee of President Trump, said Americans “on the right and left” must re-learn the difference between freedom of speech and violent attacks and asserted that “anyone who traveled from Massachusetts with the intent to commit such crimes will be prosecuted in the District of Massachusetts.”
Lelling didn’t specify which charges such people could face.
His comments came one day after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s November election victory. Many of those supporters had earlier attended a rally in which Trump urged them to “fight like hell” and walk with him to the Capitol.
The violence that followed left four people dead and forced a temporary halt to the certification process sealing Biden’s victory, which wrapped up during the predawn hours of Thursday.
In a related development, the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department said Thursday that a 33-year-old Massachusetts man was among the dozens of people arrested in connection with “incidents in and around” the Capitol Wednesday.
Police and DC Superior Court records identified the Massachusetts man as David L. Ross and said he was arrested for “curfew violation” and “unlawful entry” in the 100 block of First Street, NW, near the Capitol. Mayor Muriel Bowser had issued a curfew Wednesday evening in response to the violence.
Court records identified Ross as a Pittsfield resident who lives on Winter Street in the Western Massachusetts city. Police reports did not provide specifics on what actions he may have taken at the Capitol, but did note that he was warned he was violating the curfew three times until being arrested around 7:15 p.m.
A Buzzfeed News journalist reported that Ross was charged for entering the Capitol and that he appeared to be confused during his arraignment. Ema O’Connor, in a series of Twitter posts describing the arraignments of Trump supporters arrested during the chaos Wednesday, said Ross initially did not fully understand his legal rights and needed them explained before he entered a plea.
After Ross’s rights were explained to him, he pleaded not guilty, but then appeared to be confused about the crime he was charged with. “Where was I entering?” Ross said, according to O’Connor. He was told that his lawyer would explain later.
In addition to Ross, Thomas R. Gallagher, 61, of Bridgewater, N.H., was arrested Wednesday by the Capitol police and charged with unlawful entry, the agency said.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.