The violent members of the “Stop the Steal” protest that stormed the U.S. Capitol will face the “full consequences of their actions,” the Department of Justice said Thursday as the FBI turned to the public for help identifying those involved in the siege.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling warned that any Bay State residents who traveled to D.C. for the Capitol storming will be prosecuted back home.
The violent protesters on Wednesday disrupted the congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory — as the rioters assaulted police officers, ransacked offices and looted the Capitol building. Four people died during the chaos, one of them a woman who was shot and killed by police.
“Yesterday’s events in Washington were shocking and, once peaceful demonstrations turned violent, they became criminal,” Lelling said.
“The Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech and assembly,” he added. “What it does not protect is a violent assault on government institutions. Americans on the right and left must relearn the difference. Anyone who traveled from Massachusetts with the intent to commit such crimes will be prosecuted in the District of Massachusetts.”
Lelling’s message came as prosecutors in D.C. began filing federal charges.
Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for D.C., said prosecutors were planning to file 15 federal cases on Thursday for crimes including unauthorized access and theft of property. He said investigators were continuing to comb through reams of evidence to bring additional charges.
Rioters “actively attacked” Capitol police and other officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and used other weapons against officers, said Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.
More than 90 arrests were made, with more likely as investigations continue.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law,” said acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
“Some participants in yesterday’s violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law,” he said on Thursday.
The FBI said it was seeking to identify those involved in the violence.
The FBI said, “The FBI is accepting tips and digital media depicting rioting and violence in the U.S. Capitol Building and surrounding area … . If you have witnessed unlawful violent actions, we urge you to submit any information, photos, or videos that could be relevant at fbi.gov/USCapitol.”
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