Police Accountability: BLM vs. The Riots at the Capitol

Photo by Carol Guzy/Zuma Wire

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, far-right extremists were urged by President Donald Trump to storm the capital building after his political rally in Washington, DC. The riots instigated by the President resulted in the first evacuation of the Capital since the terrorist bombings on September 11th, 2001, the death of four people, and a grave concern for the safety of American democracy. 

This attack on the Capital was met with somewhat of a lukewarm response from police, whose inability to keep the rioters from breaching the grounds or even breaking into the congressional office has been met with backlash. This backlash, however, is well earned. 

The summer of 2020 saw nation-wide Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests sweep the streets in peaceful protest after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and what seems to be countless others. The protests were met with overwhelming police violence, with the excessive force of tear-gas, rubber bullets, and physical abuse seen and documented on social media and news outlets. The protests were spared no federal expense, as protestors faced armored vehicles, riot gear, and SWAT teams attempting to subdue activists. 

An example of one such incident is this video, in which an officer in Buffalo, NY dressed in full riot-gear shoves an elderly, unarmed man onto the sidewalk, injuring his head and knocking him unconscious. Another is this video from Portland, OR, which shows an officer repeatedly punching an unarmed man in the face while dozens of officers stand-by. 

In contrast, police did almost nothing about a cache of long guns stored on the roof of a parking garage discovered before a BLM demonstration in 2018, placed there by members of the alt-right. They were not arrested, citing concealed weapon permits. The firearms were later returned to the owners by the police. 

It stands to reason why unarmed BLM protestors should pose more of a threat to security and the police than hundreds of armed Trump supporters smashing the windows of the nation’s capital. With the alt-right’s history of violence, some would believe their threat to the safety of the capital and those inside of it worth investigating; however, it seems as though authorities have ignored the planned violence of Wednesday’s event. 

Seen in multiple Facebook posts are threats of violence and plans for pipe bombing and attacks on the media. Later, three pipe bombs were found on government grounds and news outlets were robbed of their equipment and forcefully removed from the crowd. 

The question on the mind of thousands of Americans weighs heavily and demands to be answered. If authorities had prior evidence of alt-right violence, documented threats of violence against the capital and those inside, and the knowledge that demonstrators would have an armed march on the senate, why were they allowed inside? 

Considering the police’s lack of response to conservative extremism in the past, their response on Wednesday seems just about white. President Trump, who’s tweets urged the mob and has now resulted in the permanent suspension of his account, was hesitant to call in the National Guard to deal with the threat. Considering there was no hesitancy and the threat of 10 years in federal prison for Portland BLM protestors back in the summer of 2020, this came as no surprise but still a great concern to many Americans. 

The crowd of mostly white Trump supporters were told in a now-deleted video that he ‘loved them’ and that they were ‘very special’- a far cry from the language used to describe BLM protestors in the past. 

While Trump might be assuring the right they are special snowflakes, there is nothing commendable about the outcome of the riot at the capital. This violent intimidation over baseless claims of fraudulent voting and the lack of national protection against it is a harbinger of dark times. If almost nothing was done to suppress this attack and the threat it poses to democracy, what else is in store for the nation’s democratic process? 

Works Cited

Barrett, T., & Raju, M. (2021, January 07). US Capitol secured, 4 dead after rioters stormed the halls of Congress to block Biden’s win. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/06/politics/us-capitol-lockdown/index.html

Broken windows, garbage and offices torn apart at the Capitol – CNN Video. (2021, January 07). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/01/07/aftermath-at-us-capitol-orig-jm.cnn/video/playlists/congress-affirms-president-elect-biden-win/

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