By Donald Jeffries
News is finally leaking about the horrendous treatment Jan. 6 protesters have received in prison. Conservative Dinesh D’Souza called it “a system for torturing Trumpsters.” These non-violent protesters have been charged with very minor offenses, yet have been subjected to solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day. D’Souza, in fact, claims that all of the arrestees are in solitary confinement.
Protester Ryan Samsel charged that guards at the Washington, D.C. jail beat him so severely that they dislocated his jaw, broke his nose, and left him with seizures. “This is unjustified, and the way that these guys are being treated is completely unreasonable; it’s wholly unconstitutional,” Samsel’s attorney, Steven Metcalf, said. “It doesn’t matter what these guys are being charged with. All of these guys are still in pretrial detention; they have not been convicted of any crimes. And this is what they’ve been forced to endure.” Both the D.C. jail and the FBI’s Washington Field Office released statements indicating the allegations were under investigation.
Another alleged rioter, Ronald Sandlin, told Magistrate Judge Dabney L. Friedrich that he was afraid to stay in the jail after what had happened to Sam- sel. Sandlin claimed he’d been “threatened with violence by the staff here” and that “even making this statement is putting me in danger of violence and retaliation.” Metcalf had heard similar com- plaints from other Jan. 6 detainees. “They don’t like what they’ve done, they don’t like how they’ve questioned what’s going on, they don’t like how they’ve complained about their conditions. Regardless of what you’re incarcerated for . . . you need to be treated like a human, and that’s not happening here.”
A leader of the Proud Boys, Ethan Nordean, also known as Rufio Panman, expressed the same fears in an April 8 court filing by his lawyers. Nordean alleged that many rioters have been treated violently by hostile guards, one of whom was quoted as saying, “I hate all white people and your honky religion.” The lawyers mentioned that another Jan. 6 defendant had been prevented from sleeping by guards flashing bright lights in his eyes, placed in a cell with a broken toilet, and given baby wipes instead of being allowed to shower. “Guards would snap photographs of the defendant with their phones without his consent, which they appeared to be sharing with other parties through their phones,” Nordean’s lawyers wrote. Prosecutors allege that Nordean is a flight risk, and are lobbying to have him behind bars.
One unlikely critic of the draconian treatment was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who stated: “Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging. And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of any- thing yet.” The most often leveled charges against the ludicrously termed “insurrectionists” are “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building without lawful authority.” More than 400 people have been charged with federal crimes relating to the Jan. 6 rally.
During his April 6 broadcast, Tucker Carlson expressed his outrage over the situation:
A mob of older people from unfashionable zip codes somehow made it all the way to Washington, D.C. They wandered freely
through the Capitol, like it was their building or something. They didn’t have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas. They talked about the Constitution, and something called “their rights.” They insisted, for example, that the last election was not entirely fair. The whole thing was terrifying.
And then, as you’ve been told so often, they committed unspeakable violence. By the time thousands of soldiers arrived to restore order, an unarmed woman, an Air Force veteran, lay dead. To this day, that woman is the one completely verified casualty of the insurrection, the only person whose death we can say definitively was caused by specific events on Jan. 6. We know how she died. We still don’t know who shot Ashli Babbitt, or why. No one will tell us.
But then, when you’re fighting insurrectionists, you don’t have to explain yourself.
The government’s attitude was summed up by prosecutor Michael Sherwin, who declared, “I wanted to ensure, and our office wanted to ensure, that there was shock and awe, that we could charge as many people as possible before the 20th. And it worked because we saw through media posts that people were afraid to come back to D.C. because they’re like, ‘If we go there, we’re gonna get charged.’ . . . . We wanted to take out those individuals that essentially were thumbing their noses at the public for what they did.”
“What they did” was meander peacefully into the people’s representative body, after being waved inside by still unidentified police officers. To this day, there has been no “shock and awe” directed at truly violent rioters during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.