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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

How pro-Trump riot departed from pro-Bush 'Brooks Brothers' fray

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) stops to look at

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) stops to look at damage at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 7, the morning after pro-Trump rioters stormed the building. Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik

Younger voters can be forgiven if they know little of the so-called "Brooks Brothers riot" in Miami from 20 years ago. Unlike the recent U.S. Capitol siege, that pro-GOP demonstration in 2000 was neither lethal nor blatantly seditious. But the two events do warrant comparison.

Both demonstrations erupted on behalf of Republican candidates — one before he became president and the other after he was voted out.

The president election count in Florida was close in late November 2000. Many ballots were disputed by the opposing camps of George W. Bush and Al Gore. GOP activists piled into an office area where the counts took place. Some, such as organizer Brad Blakeman from Long Island, still dispute the term "riot" and suggest it's better called a "rebellion."

Those involved were protesting the way the count was carried out on the 19th floor of an office building. There was pushing and shoving and hostile contact, prompting a police response.

In Florida, the counting in that famously flawed ballot process was halted. After the dispute went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush came out on top.

Why "Brooks Brothers"? Because the middle-aged male protesters were wearing blazers and dress shirts. Unlike the recent blowup, none were photographed sporting combat equipment or animal skins. The Trump siege, in contrast, led to five deaths and major property damage.

President Donald Trump's Washington mob gathered under the slogan "Stop the steal!" — weeks after the election — under the false pretense that he'd really won.

These incidents 20 years apart featured buzz around self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone. He claimed a big role in the Brooks Brothers disturbance, but that is contested by other Republicans who were there. The Jan. 6 riot, however, has Stone looking to minimize his role in hindsight.

Stone, a Trump confidant convicted on felony charges but pardoned by the president, addressed a rally in Washington the night before the violence, according to ABC News. At the Jan. 5 rally, Stone accused those behind President-elect Joe Biden of "nothing less than the heist of the 2020 election." Later, Stone denounced the rioting and said he was in his Washington hotel when it occurred.

Like the earlier "Brooks Brothers" disruption, the assault on Congress was aimed at influencing an official procedure.

On Jan. 6 and afterward, lawmakers acted as required anyway, confirming Biden's Electoral College results. The Trumpers' siege failed. GOP visions of the U.S. Supreme Court upholding election-law assertions for Trump as it did for Bush turned to ash.

The two uproars had very different bottom lines. Winner Bush was sworn in for the first time on Jan. 20, 2001. Loser Trump leaves the White House on Wednesday, as a one-term president.

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