Protest in Kevin McCarthy's Office Compared to Jan. 6 Riot

Demonstrators who entered House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's office to stage a protest are being compared to rioters who took part in the deadly attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Seven people were arrested after they occupied the Republican leader's office in a congressional building on Monday and demanded that Congress reauthorize the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

The program's provisions are set to expire at the end of September, but some Republican lawmakers are now endangering the stability of the program credited with saving more than 25 million lives. Advocacy groups Housing Works and Health GAP (Global Access Project) organized the protest

Video posted on X, formerly Twitter, by Politico reporter Alice Miranda Ollstein shows protesters on the floor of McCarthy's office. They were seen linking arms and chanting "Pass PEPFAR now, McCarthy!"

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of Capitol
Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Some conservatives compared protesters demonstrating at Kevin McCarthy's office to the Capitol riot. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

A Capitol Police spokesperson told Newsweek that seven people—four men and three women—were arrested for unlawful entry after they "refused to cease demonstrating." Those convicted of unlawful entry, a misdemeanor offense, face a penalty of up to six months in prison.

Ollstein noted in another post that the protest took place in the Rayburn House Office Building, not the Capitol. "The activists did not break in," Ollstein added. "Peaceful demos like this where people intentionally get arrested are fairly common on Capitol Hill."

But several conservatives compared the incident to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump and questioned why the demonstrators were not being treated as harshly as those who have been charged and convicted of federal crimes related to the Capitol riot.

"A very sad day for Democracy... will they be thrown in prison for years on end for this?" Collin Rugg, the co-owner of conservative outlet Trending Politics, wrote in a post on X.

"The radical activists stormed McCarthy's office to riot in favor of a 5 year reauthorization of PEPFAR, a program that addresses the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When Democrats do this, they are 'occupying.' If Trump supporters do this, they are 'traitors.'"

Political strategist Alex Lorusso called the protesters "Far Left insurrectionists."

"I'm assuming these people will be locked up immediately, put on no fly lists, will have their houses raided and will be sentenced to years in prison, right?" Lorusso wrote on X.

"Is the corrupt DoJ pursing [sic] them like the J6 protesters? Will they be hounded, destroyed, imprisoned?" wrote Pamela Geller, who leads an anti-Muslim organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Five people died after armed supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory. Many were injured in the melee, and two other officers later took their own lives.

More than 1,100 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot since. At least 600 of them have been sentenced, with about 400 receiving prison terms ranging from three days to 22 years.

The longest sentence so far was handed down to former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio. He was sentenced last week to 22 years in prison after being convicted of seditious conspiracy and other offenses stemming from the riot.

His prison term tops the 18-year sentences given to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and one-time Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean.

Trump was charged in Washington, D.C., in a four-count indictment with allegedly plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election earlier this year, one of four criminal cases he is facing as he seeks to regain the White House in 2024.

He also faces state charges in Georgia arising from efforts to overturn the election in that state, a federal prosecution in Florida accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents and state charges in New York in connection with hush money payments during the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty in all four cases.

Newsweek reached out to the Capitol Police, McCarthy's office, Housing Works, and Health GAP via email for comment.

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