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How arrests in the Capitol riot compare to that of Black Lives Matter protests

Supporters of President Donald Trump are pushed back by police outside the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, after a mob breached security and entered the building.
Supporters of President Donald Trump are pushed back by police outside the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, after a mob breached security and entered the building.KENNY HOLSTON/NYT

Mobs of Donald Trump supporters rioted in the United States Capitol on Wednesday. The attack’s relative ease prompted many to question police officials’ handling of the event. By Thursday morning Washington D.C. police had arrested 61 people in connection with the unrest, but most of the charges were for curfew violations that happened hours after the Capitol breach. Many contrasted early reports of roughly a dozen arrests to the hundreds of summertime roundups during Black Lives Matter protests against policing disparities.

Below are how the arrest numbers from Wednesday’s insurrection and similarly-themed Make America Great Again (MAGA) rallies actually compare to Black Lives Matter demonstrations this year.

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Mass protests and political rallies have been taking place in Washington D.C. since May 29, 2020, four days after George Floyd died in Minnesota after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Within days of the demonstrations, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announced that multiple law enforcement agencies, including the National Guard, Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation, would “flood the zone” in D.C. Thousands of law enforcement officials, armed with tear gas, rubber bullets and firearms were deployed to protect the city. Hundreds of people were arrested, D.C. police records show. More than 300 were arrested on June 1, 2020, the day Barr ordered law enforcement to forcefully clear peaceful protesters from a perimeter near the White House, making room for President Trump to pose for cameras while waving a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. It was the largest number of arrests recorded for any day during the summer of events.

Eventually Black Lives Matter protests gave way to MAGA demonstrations. Following the November 3, 2020 election of Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris, large groups of Trump supporters held rallies in the city, where they clashed with counter-protesters. Police made 20 arrests during the so-called Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020, an event in which Trump-supporters, including white nationalists, far-right extremist groups, and conservative politicians gathered in D.C. to protest the election results. Police have recorded dozens of arrests from such rallies.

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The January 6 storming of the Capitol ended in 61 arrests, the second-highest number of jailings related to D.C. unrest since May. But most of these arrests are related to charges involving curfew violations—D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser announced a 6 p.m. curfew, though mobs had broken into the Capitol hours earlier, around 1:30 p.m. There were only four non-curfew-related arrests. That is compared to 40 non-curfew-related arrests during Black Lives Matter protests on June 1, 2020.


Vince can be reached at vince.dixon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @vince_dixon_.