PITTSBURGH — Large crowds of people claiming to be supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol complex on Wednesday.
Kris Kanthak, a political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said she expects many of the protesters to be charged and arrested in the coming days.
She said people have a First Amendment right to protest, but it is illegal to break into any building, much less a government building, and disrupt government activities.
“A lot of the people, particularly the bigger instigators of this, took pictures of themselves for social media, and we saw that with the protests in Pittsburgh over the summer,” Kanthak said. “When you do that, they come back later and they catch you, and that’s probably what’s likely to happen here as well.”
If you were wondering why there weren’t many arrests during the situation, Kanthak said that was because police were focused on securing the Capitol so that the certification vote could resume.
Some of the federal crimes committed include trespassing, entering a restricted government building and physical damage to government property. Those are misdemeanors, but entering a restricted government building with a weapon or causing injury is a felony.
“You have a First Amendment right to protest, and to protest in ways that people don’t like and that they find uncomfortable, but you don’t have the First Amendment right to disrupt governments, which is what happened here. You do not have a First Amendment right to break into a building like the Capitol, so this is illegal,” Kanthak said.
U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said he’s already been in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Capitol Police.
Brady said his office is looking into anyone who traveled from western Pennsylvania to the nation’s capital with the intention to incite violence and engage in a riot.
“If you travel an interstate to insight or promote a riot or engage in violence, then you can be charged federally,” Brady said.
Most of the federal crimes committed will be prosecuted in D.C.
Anyone who recognizes people from western Pennsylvania breaking the law in any videos or pictures is asked to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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