Sen. Tom Cotton Supports Congressman Buck’s Bill for Tougher Penalties for Rioters

January 22, 2021 Updated: January 22, 2021

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he will be introducing a bill to toughen federal penalties for rioters or those who use mob violence, joining Rep. Ken Buck’s (R-Colo.) bill in the House in response to the Jan. 6 breach at the Capitol building and ongoing Antifa violence on the West Coast.

Cotton has consistently condemned mob violence to achieve a political goal and said that type of violence should be dealt with immediately and with ample force to deter any further destruction. On Friday morning Cotton told Fox News the violence being carried out by Antifa should be dealt with the same way as the Capitol rioters.

protesters
A group of protesters enter the U.S. Capitol’s Rotunda in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

“This proves the point I made months ago, proves the point I made two weeks ago, that when you have a mob using violence for political ends, it doesn’t matter what slogan they’re chanting or what flag they’re waving, they have to be met with force and force has to be used to deter that violence, and if it breaks out, to stop that violence,” Cotton said. “That has to be the standard that we apply, no matter what slogan, a mob is chanting.”

During the summer of 2020, many protests in the name of racial justice by groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa turned violent, with property being destroyed and shops being looted. Republicans condemned that violence and called for tougher penalties but Democrats were largely silent.

Cotton said he supports the bill Buck first introduced in November 2020, called the BRICKS Act, which the representative introduced because of the many protests in U.S. cities turning violent with cars and buildings being set on fire and property being looted and destroyed.

In a 2020 statement about his bill, Buck wrote that violence from left-wing extremists must stop and that his bill aims to punish those that engage in such violence.

minneapolis pawn shop
A police officer stands watch as a looted pawn shop burns behind them, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 28, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“This bill increases penalties for inciting, organizing, aiding, abetting, or funding rioting (18 USC, Sec. 2101) from five years to 10 years,” the bill states. “The BRICKS Act also adds an escalator clause in which penalties may increase to 25 years in prison if serious bodily injury is inflicted. Violators may face up to life in prison if death results from their actions.”

Two weeks ago, immediately following the breach on the Capitol, Cotton told Fox News mob violence is never acceptable.

“You know, last summer, a lot of critics on the left said that I should not have said that we should use all available means to law enforcement to put down mob violence when insurrectionists gripped our streets, even if that meant sending in the troops. Yesterday, though, there’s no difference. It shouldn’t matter what kind of signs the mob carries before they become violent. There’s no acceptable basis for mob violence in this country for political purposes,” said Cotton.

Demonstrators try to topple a steel fence
Rioters try to topple a steel fence during a Black Lives Matter event at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on July 25, 2020, (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

Meanwhile, this week in Portland, black-clad activists with their faces covered broke windows and the glass door at the Democratic Party of Oregon business office, spray-painting an anarchist symbol over the party sign, tipping over garbage containers, and lighting the contents on fire.

“We don’t want Biden. We want revenge for police murders, imperialist wars, and fascist massacres,” read a banner they marched under, which featured an image of a Kalashnikov, while others carried a sign saying, “We are not governable,” which was dotted with anarchy symbols.

Buck and Cotton’s legislation aims to stop the type of violence occurring in Portland and that happened during the joint session of Congress, during the counting of the Electoral votes on Jan. 6. at the Capitol building.

Buck’s bill did not get the support from Democrats it needed last year but after the breach of the Capitol by a subset of rioters at a pro-Trump protest, they may be more willing to see such penalties enacted. Buck is reintroducing his bill on Monday and Cotton will file a companion bill in the Senate in the near future.

Buck said of his bill, “The riot at the Capitol and the riots that occurred over the summer were both disgraceful and caused harm to our nation. Those responsible must be held accountable—and the BRICKS Act would do just that.”

“Any act of violence is wrong,” Buck said. “In order to truly restore unity in this country, we must prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law.”

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.