Charges Against Non-Violent Capitol Protesters Should Be Dropped: Matt Braynard

February 3, 2021 Updated: February 3, 2021

Matt Braynard, former director of Data and Strategy for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, told The Epoch Times that charges against the non-violent protesters at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6 should be dropped.

“Anybody that engaged in any violence on January 6, who may have assaulted a police officer or committed serious property damage or vandalism should face serious charges,” Braynard said.

“However, the vast majority of those people have not been charged with such crimes. They’ve been charged with simply walking through an open door to a public building, with no knowledge or no reason to expect that it would be illegal or forbidden.”

Braynard sent an open letter (pdf) to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on Jan. 29, requesting them to drop all charges against non-violent protesters and not use “those few bad apples as an excuse to persecute the peaceful Trump supporters.”

In the open letter, Braynard pointed out that these charges require a “mens rea” (mental state) of “knowingly entering” a federal building without permission.

But the majority of the non-violent protesters reasonably believed they had permission to enter, Braynard argued.

Braynard pointed out that police officers were seen pulling down barriers and opening doors for the protesters in many cases. Some officers even smiled and took selfies with the protesters.

Epoch Times Photo
Matt Braynard, the executive director of Look Ahead America, during an interview with The Epoch Times’s Joshua Philipp. (The Epoch Times)

A timeline of the event was compiled by The Epoch Times which links to videos of this occurring.

“Whatever their reasons, if you’re an innocent person at a rally and you see the door of the Capitol building opened by an officer, it invites you to enter, and you could reasonably expect that you have the right to go through those doors,” Braynard said.

“They had no intention to destroy property or harm anyone. They may have been naive but were not acting maliciously. Whatever the crimes, they do not deserve jail time and to face financial ruin due to legal costs for such a minor offense,” Braynard further explained in his open letter.

He also alleged that because the DOJ and FBI previously treated protesters differently, “out of a sense of fairness and a sense of justice, it’s important that the Department of Justice drop these charges.”

In 2018, during the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many protesters stormed the Senate office buildings, intimidated senators, and tried to prevent it. The protestors were arrested, but only ended up with fines of between $35 and $50, Braynard said.

He indicated in his open letter that many of those arrested on Jan. 6, in contrast, have faced $100,000 and even $750,000 bails, and the prosecutors have demanded they be revoked entirely.

“And then during President Trump’s own inauguration in January 2017, over 200 individuals committed violent crimes, including assaulting police officers, destroying police cars, other property damage, and all of them had their charges dropped,” Braynard said.

“We’ve seen again and again, people engaging in nothing short of domestic terrorism on the left, using weapons, starting fires, committing serious property damage, assaulting and even murdering police officers, and in many cases being given bail by people like Kamala Harris, and by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign,” Braynard continued, referring to the protesters during the summer in the name of Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think that these people are being persecuted solely because of their political beliefs,” Braynard added. “I think the right course for that is to drop charges.”

Neither the DOJ nor FBI responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comments.

“January 6th was a tragedy, and we mourn the deaths of Georgia, Ashli Babbit, and Officer Brian Sicknick,” Braynard said in his open letter. “We should not further compound the tragedy through vindictive and selective political prosecutions. Law enforcement should prosecute those who committed violence against police officers or committed serious property damage, while treating the peaceful protesters who wrongfully entered the Capitol with compassion by dropping the charges.”