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9 Jun, 2022 19:44

FBI arrests Republican frontrunner

Ryan Kelley was arrested by the FBI and faces misdemeanor charges over his alleged participation in last year’s Capitol Hill protest
FBI arrests Republican frontrunner

Ryan Kelley, the leading Republican candidate in Michigan’s gubernatorial election, was arrested by the FBI on Thursday and charged with several misdemeanors over his alleged participation in the pro-Trump protest on Capitol Hill last January. Kelley’s arrest, which came hours before Democrats kicked off a Congressional hearing into the protest, has been condemned by conservatives.

Kelley was taken into custody at his home in Allendale, Michigan, on Thursday morning. He has been charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, physical violence, and destruction of US property during a pro-Trump protest on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.

According to a statement by the FBI, Kelley was identified among the crowd of Trump supporters by an informant, and was seen in a group that was “assaulting and pushing past law enforcement officers.” He is not directly accused of assaulting anybody, but of climbing “on an architectural feature” and “using his hands to support another rioter who is pulling the metal barricade.”

Kelley’s arrest came three days after Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the right-wing ‘Proud Boys’ fraternity – was charged with seditious conspiracy along with four of the group’s other leaders. Although all had previously been indicted on, and denied, less serious charges, prosecutors alleged on Monday that by participating in the January 6 protest, they sought to “prevent, hinder, and delay the execution of any law of the United States” by force.

The arrest of Kelley and charging of Tarrio have brought media attention to the Democrat-led Congressional committee investigating the protest. The committee is set to open its hearing into the riot later on Thursday with testimony from a police officer injured on the day, and evidence from a documentary filmmaker who worked with the Proud Boys.

Although the committee’s hearing has been heavily publicized in the American media, recent polling shows that American voters are more concerned about the country’s floundering economy than the January 6 riot, dubbed an “insurrection” by many in the press and “domestic terrorism” by President Joe Biden. Furthermore, fewer Americans believe that Donald Trump was to blame for the affray, with 55% saying he was “somewhat” or “not really” responsible for the riot.

Several deaths were linked to the events of January 6. Three rioters died of natural causes during the chaos, and one was shot and killed by a police officer. Hours after order was restored, US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes in his office.

Kelley’s detention was condemned by conservative commentators. Pundit Jesse Kelly described the arrest as “the weaponization of the administrative state against the enemies of the Democratic Party,” while another commentator, Hans Mahncke declared that “Investigating political opponents based on fraudulent pretexts is no longer good enough. Now they just go and arrest them.”

Kelley, who has claimed that Biden’s 2020 electoral victory was fraudulent and called for the arrest of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer over her heavy-handed coronavirus restrictions, was polling at 19% in the state’s Republican primary race prior to his arrest, with Kevin Rinke in second place with 15%.