Why Congress Won’t Investigate the 2020 Summer Riots

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to seat Republican members on the partisan January 6 Commission—where she staged an emotionally wrenching but largely fact-free affairis a reflection of Congress’ growing inability to fulfill its oversight function. Congressional members undoubtedly prefer raw partisanship and media operations to their duty of discovering the truth about difficult events.

It was not always this way. In fact, Congress once strived to conduct significant investigations designed for the purpose of understanding the nature of threats and challenges facing the United States.

Compare the theatricality of the January 6 Commission hearing to the work of the 90th and 91st Congresses from 1967 to 1969. Then, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published a 23-part series of substantive reports about the deadly riots that devastated cities across the United States between 1965 and 1968.

Senate investigators commissioned a survey of more than 137 affected cities to calculate incidents of arson, looting, sniper fire, and police and civilian deaths and injuries. They interviewed police, intelligence personnel, professional researchers, and non-profit leaders, about the nature of militant groups. They spoke on a bipartisan basis to mayors and local government leaders about their experiences and local and state efforts to improve urban living conditions, lessen racial tensions, and mitigate agitation from militants.

Most Americans favor a genuine investigation into the political violence that erupted during the summer of 2020. A National Police Association/Rasmussen Reports Poll showed that 66 percent of Americans want the Summer 2020 Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots investigated, in results that transcend both racial and partisan lines.

Yet congressional Democrats have staunchly refused to address the riots which resulted in more than $2 billion in damages and dozens of lives lost, preferring instead to focus solely on a single incident in which one person, protester and U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, was killed by a police officer.

We are unlikely to get a real investigation of those riots, however, because the data available isn’t friendly to the Democrats’ narrative, or more particularly those who offered full-throated support of BLM protest organizers and are now baying for the blood of January 6 protestors.

Matt Mayer has reported on this data at The Federalist, citing a report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a network of police chiefs for metropolitan cities in the U.S. and Canada which surveyed its members about the nature of the 2020 riots for a report published in October of last year.

The report disproves a number of claims perpetuated by the corporate media about the protests.

Most notably 90 percent of agencies identified out-of-state protestors playing a role in protests, and there was a correlation between out-of-state protestors and increased levels of violence. While claims of paid protestors and astro-turfing have long been alleged by conservatives and denied by the media, there’s now evidence that at least a quarter of responding police agencies saw this phenomenon take place.

Police observers also found clear evidence of “nationwide coordination” for violent protests, and evidence of coordination between nonviolent and violent protestors. The report authors write:

The weekend of May 29th to the following Monday, June 1st was by far the most violent for many major city law enforcement agencies. These events had thousands of people in attendance including groups with suspected violent extremist ideologies. ‘Prepared and coordinated resistance’ was reported by some agencies and similar tactics such as the use of arson, looting, barricades, caravans, and specific types of weapons were seen in major cities nationwide. Protesters seemed to coordinate their movements and actions on these days as if the violence and tactics were pre-planned. For example, across the U.S., major city law enforcement agencies reported peaceful protests beginning in the early to late afternoons and violence beginning once it became dark.

The report also confirms the presence of far-left “violent extremists” and notes that 78 percent of surveyed police agencies identified such actors among the protests. Fifty-one percent of agencies also identified “far-right” actors at some protests. Unfortunately, the report offers no details that would let analysts examine how the authors determined a violent actor’s ideological tendency, and there are no specifics about what role various actors were playing. 

This is part of a generally negative trend in law enforcement and counterterrorism reporting, which prefers increasingly vague categorizations of ideological actors over analysis of specific known violent groups or movements. Even so it makes clear that for major police departments, far-left violent actors were a substantially more common occurrence and threat, which runs counter to the narrative informing the Biden Administration’s domestic extremism policies.

By comparison, the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations reports from the ’65-’68 riots named names when it came to the role played by various agitators, most especially the ironically named Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), let by Stokely Carmichael, who organized and agitated violent riots and hijacked otherwise peaceful community organizations.

When examining the commonality of violent protest trends, however, there is clear evidence of Antifa’s role, although the group is not named within the MCC report. Among the techniques the report identifies as “High Trending Protester Tactics” nearly all of them are tactics known to be associated with Antifa. These include: the presence of out-of-town protestors, the use of “Snack Vans” (such as the Seattle-based Riot Kitchen) to conceal weapons, the use of bicycle scouts, the doxxing of police officers, the establishment of autonomous zones and barricades, and the utilization of “de-arrest” tactics.

If U.S. lawmakers were serious about getting to the bottom of political violence, the MCC report would be considered a useful jumping off point for a genuine investigation into the most costly riots in American history. A serious legislative and oversight body would call the police officers who witnessed riots first-hand to discuss the targeted arson of city halls and police precincts. Further, it would call chiefs of police to discuss the negative impact of local officials who publicly endorsed rioters and condemned police and subpoena the organizers of groups that facilitated protests and riots.

But U.S. lawmakers are not serious. They have traded stewardship and public service for publicity stunts and theatrics. So don’t hold your breath. 

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About Kyle Shideler

Kyle Shideler is the Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterroism at the Center for Security Policy. You can follow him at @ShidelerK on Twitter.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images