Liberal Judges Are Comparing Progressive Activists to Jan. 6 Rioters

Last year, Joanna Smith went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and smeared paint on the case and pedestal of Edgar Degas’ sculpture, “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.” She did so as a protest urging President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency. “The Earth is beautiful, and we’re destroying it with climate change,” Smith said as part of the protest. 

Smith was sentenced last month to 60 days in prison and two years of supervised release. During her sentencing hearing, the liberal judge specifically compared Smith to several insurrectionists who punched and kicked in windows at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as rioters stormed the building seeking to stop the nation’s peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Biden. 

“Now, everyone is looking at me — Jan. 6, you can’t compare us to those people. And, yes, some of them were truly violent,” said District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, appearing to realize how strange the comparison sounded. “I do think that the ones who destroyed property are fair comparators,” continued Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee, adding that “this defendant is not in some separate category because of the nature of her cause.”

Jackson’s comments mark what appears to be a developing and relatively bizarre trend: Liberal judges are making a habit out of comparing defendants in completely unrelated cases to the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. 

As liberal tax policy expert Bob Lord noted in a recent commentary piece for Rolling Stone, District Judge Ana Reyes did the same thing as she sentenced Charles Littlejohn, an IRS whistleblower who leaked the tax returns of Trump and other billionaires, exposing their tax avoidance. 

Reyes asserted that Littlejohn’s actions were a greater “threat to our democracy” than the Jan. 6 rioters she had sentenced herself. “I have reacted so strongly to your case because it engenders the same fear that Jan. 6 does — that we have gotten to [the] point in our society in which otherwise law-abiding, rational people believe that they have no choice but to break the law to further their political agendas,” Reyes said to Littlejohn, telling him that “my Jan. 6 cases to-date are not appropriate comparators for the sentence I will hand down in your case.”

Regarding Smith’s case, climate activist Michael Greenberg, the executive director at Climate Defiance, tells Rolling Stone that comparing her to the Jan. 6 insurrectionists wasn’t fair. “The rioters took action because they wanted to see our democracy fail,” he said. “Joanna took action because our democracy has failed.”

Phil Andonian, the lawyer who represented Smith in the case, tells Rolling Stone that “the judge was a coward in drawing the comparison,” adding that he was “appalled when the judge went there, and it was all I could do to keep my composure.” 

Andonian has led two lawsuits against Trump and Capitol rioters over the insurrection — one on behalf of Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and the other on behalf of the partner of a Capitol Police officer who died after suffering two strokes one day after the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. 

He argues members of the judiciary, the Biden administration, and politicians on the left have been “capitulating to this false equivalence of Jan. 6,” and that comparing any actions to it that aren’t an “an out-and-out insurrection is ridiculous.” 

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“I consider myself a liberal Democrat for the most part,” says Andonian. “This is kind of the classic Democratic playbook. You get backed into a corner by a fake argument on the other side that the Jan. 6 people were just protesting, and they’re being treated too harshly, and rather than tell them to go pound sand and continue to treat this as the unprecedented insurrection that it was, they start rushing to say, ‘Well, look, we’re treating people on the left just as harshly, you can’t accuse us of playing favorites.’ And then it turns into this game of false equivalence, which just drives me insane.” 

He believes that’s what happened with Jackson at Smith’s sentencing: “She was not going to be the judge that let a protester — who did something that I think everybody probably can agree was off-putting — off the hook without referencing J-6 and without appearing to be treating her on the same plane.”


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