Ron Johnson again says Jan 6 was not an ‘armed riot’, adds ‘protesters taught us’ how to use flagpoles as weapons


Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on Tuesday reiterated his assertion that the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol was not an “armed riot,” but added that protesters “taught us how you can use flagpoles, that kind of thing , as weapons.”

“There weren’t thousands of armed rioters. I put the question to the FBI agent at a hearing about this, I said, ‘How many firearms were confiscated either in the Capitol or on the Capitol grounds?’ I didn’t know the answer. For all I know it would be a thousand. No, zero. Zero,” Johnson said at the Rotary Club of Milwaukee in Wisconsin, according to a video posted online by an NBC reporter at the event.

Johnson added that “protesters taught us how you can use flagpoles, things like that, as weapons. But to call what happened on January 6th an ‘armed rebellion,’ I just think, is not correct,” he added.

In a statement to CNN on Tuesday, Johnson campaign spokeswoman Alexa Henning said the senator compared the methods used by racial justice protesters in the summer of 2020 to those of the Jan. 6 rioters.

“The senator referred to — and his full quote shows — the actions of the rioters in the summer of 2020,” Henning said. “He acknowledges that left-wing rioters know how to use flagpoles and other metal objects and water bottles as weapons. But there is a difference between that and an armed rebellion. In the summer of 2020, leftists used bricks, water bottles, flagpoles, fireworks, Molotov cocktails, anything but a gun as a weapon to destroy cities, but the media did not cover them as ‘violent’ or ‘armed’. When protesters during January 6 used a flag pole, the types of objects they had been using all summer were now considered part of an “armed” rebellion. He in no way condones this act. He comments on the hypocrisy of the situation.”

Henning also shared a full transcript of Johnson’s remarks and a link to Twitter videos of protesters using flagpoles during anti-racism protests in 2020. According to the transcript from the campaign, Johnson said, “summer protesters taught us all how to use flagpoles, that kind of things like weapons.”

Johnson has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the January 6 riots at the Capitol.

In the months after the riot, Johnson cast doubt on reports surrounding the riot, telling a conservative radio host last year, “these were people who love this country, who really respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law,” and later told Fox News: “The case in the case even calls it an uprising, it wasn’t.”

In an interview Monday, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, his Democratic opponent in the key Senate race in November, criticized Johnson for his statements about Jan. 6.

“I will not be lectured about crime by someone who supported a violent riot that left 140 officers injured – one stabbed with a metal pole and another crushed in a revolving door – it is very hypocritical for Ron Johnson to want to bring up crime ,” Barnes told MSNBC.

US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, in his testimony before the House Select Committee on January 6, said in late July that rioters used flagpoles against the Capitol Police as weapons.

“A baseball bat, a hockey stick, a rebar, a flag pole, including the American flag, pepper spray, bear spray. You name it. You had all these things and things that were thrown at us and used to attack us. Those are weapons ,” he said.

Video from the committee also showed rioters beating Capitol Police with flagpoles.

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