Trump and allies raise baseless comparisons between Gaza protests and January 6 riot

Steps away from the doors of his criminal trial on Tuesday, Donald Trump compared nationwide college campus protests against Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza to his supporters launching an assault on the halls of Congress on January 6.

“They took over a building, that is a big deal. And I wonder if what’s going to happen to them will be anything comparable to what happened to J6, because they’re doing a lot of destruction, a lot of damages, a lot of people getting hurt very badly,” the former president said from the criminal courthouse in Manhattan on Tuesday.

“I wonder if that’s going to be the same kind of treatment they gave J6,” he added. “Let’s see how that all works out. I think I can give you the answer right now. And that’s why people have lost faith in our court system.”

In a rambling interview with Fox News that night, while New York City Police Department officers stormed Columbia University’s campus and arrested hundreds of people, the former president condemned protesters’ damage to a “landmark” building and accused “Jewish politicians” of “abandoning” Israel.

“You go back 10 years, Israel was protected by Congress. Now, Congress is just doing numbers that are unbelievable with I think a very, very small group of people within Congress and it’s gotta stop,” he said.

Students have set up encampments and anti-war demonstrations at university campuses across the US, putting pressure on college administrators to divest from ties to Israel as more than 30,000 Palestinians, including 13,000 children, have been killed in Israel’s attacks in Gaza.

By contrast, dozens of police officers were violently assaulted on 6 January 2021, when a mob of Mr Trump’s supporters breached barricades and broke into the US Capitol in a show of force to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump speaks to reporters in criminal court in Manhattan on 30 April (EPA)
Donald Trump speaks to reporters in criminal court in Manhattan on 30 April (EPA)

The former president is hardly alone in drawing a blanket equivalency between the two, arguing that student protesters should face the same consequences as the more than 1,300 people facing criminal prosecution in connection with the Capitol attack.

Across social media, users labelled Columbia protesters’ occupation of Hamilton Hall an “insurrection” or compared the images to those from January 6. Fox News used that characterisation in an article on 30 April, claiming that “the insurrection began at approximately 12:30 a.m.”

“You don’t see the upset that you saw around January 6,” Fox News host Maria Bartiromo said last week.

Republican officials have seized on the protests at university campuses to lob political attacks against President Joe Biden, as Mr Trump and his GOP allies repeatedly depict a nation in chaos as they wage their 2024 campaigns.

Meanwhile, many of those same Republicans have supported or downplayed the violence seen on January 6.

The former president has repeatedly pledged to issue mass pardons to January 6 defendants, who he has labelled “patriots” and “hostages,” if he is elected in November.