NEWS & ANALYSIS

Progressive Lawmakers Rally Behind Legislation That Could Help Jan. 6 Rioters


Some progressive Democrats are rallying behind new legislation that could surprisingly benefit those who were arrested and imprisoned without trial for participation in the January 6th Capitol riot. 

Reps. Hank Johnson and Jamie Raskin on Wednesday reintroduced the Bivens Act, which would allow citizens to recover damages for constitutional violations committed against them by federal law enforcement officials, Just the News reports

The bill seeks to “provide a civil remedy for an individual whose rights have been violated by a person acting under federal authority.” 

It would do this by adding five words – “of the United States or” – to a longstanding provision enacted in 1871, giving individuals the right to sue state or local officials who violated their civil and constitutional rights. 

Under the legislation, the FBI, Justice Department, TSA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and federal prison officials are among the law enforcement institutions that would be held accountable. 

“Victims of constitutional violations by federal officers too often have no legal recourse,” Johnson said. “From ICE officers who conduct illegal searches and seizures and Bureau of Land Management officials who intimidate property owners into providing easements to the peaceful protesters who were violently dispersed from Lafayette Square with teargas and rubber bullets last summer so [President] Trump could get his Bible photo op – they are all too often immunized from damages for their constitutional wrongs.” 

“The Bivens Act will finally codify the people’s right to seek damages from the federal government when their constitutional rights have been violated,” Raskin said. “Just last year, we watched then-Attorney General Barr unleash a ragtag paramilitary squad of federal law enforcement officers to deploy tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square.” 

“Many of those injured that day, including several of my constituents, may find themselves without an effective legal remedy. This bill will right that wrong by allowing affected citizens to recover damages and hold federal law enforcement officials accountable for misconduct,” Raskin continued. 

Coincidentally, the legislation would offer a path to civil remedy for those imprisoned without trial for alleged involvement in the January 6th Capitol riot. 

Many January 6th prisoners say they’ve been mistreated by federal authorities and allege the FBI, Justice Department and prison officials have violated their civil and constitutional rights.