Last week, thousands of Pro-Trump rioters, armed with dissent at the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, gathered in Washington DC demanding that Congress retract Biden’s victory. Following Trump’s encouragements for them to “fight like hell” and “take back our country” they proceeded to storm the US Capitol and occupied various parts of the building to disrupt the electoral count, an event that would formalise Biden’s presidency. Many of the protestors became violent and assaulted the US Capitol police officers and were clear about their intent to take lawmakers including Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence hostage. They looted and vandalised offices, as well as planted improvised explosives in various areas on the Capitol grounds.
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As a result, 5 people including a US Capitol Police Officer died, amongst various others who were injured. The intention of the “rally”, was, according to organiser and right wing activist Ali Alexander, “to build momentum and then on the day change the hearts and minds of Congress peoples”.
The events of last week have ultimately revealed a double standard of treatment in the way white, right wing protestors are dealt with as opposed to those of varying demographics. Former president Trump seemed largely pleased at the Capitol breach and appeared only bothered by the “low class” appearance of the rioters- more so for aesthetic reasons. Though he asked them to remain peaceful during the riots he did not explicitly demand of them to disperse. The breach was eventually deescalated, there is an undeniably explicit difference in the way the MAGA rioters were treated by the police force as opposed to that which was demonstrated during the Summer 2020 BLM protests spurred by racial injustice.
Last year, the police’s use of military tactics, including riot gear, rubber bullets and generous use of tear gas did not go unnoticed. These measures were not only counterproductive had their intention been to deescalate the protests, but also somewhat ironically cemented the motive of the protests themselves: to draw attention to police brutality in America.
The same military tactics were not employed this time around, as the white supremacist rioters were in fact met with a relatively lenient police force that seemed reluctant to employ any actual force to dissuade the initial storming of the Capitol. One officer was even filmed taking a selfie with one of the rioters when inside the building. Low barriers were erected to prevent the storming of the capitol beforehand. The police were clad in their regular uniforms as opposed to riot gear. They failed to immediately arrest the rioters or respond in any way to their entry as well as the events the followed afterwards.
This behaviour seems inconsistent with the knowledge that the Capitol police happens to be one of the largest and best funded police forces in the United States, with 2,000 police officers and an annual budget of $460 million, access to substantial arsenal and extensive experience with responding to high profile events. Representative Tim Ryan (politician representing Ohio’s 13th congressional district) stated that “If black people were storming the Capitol, they would have been treated so much differently than they were today. I don’t think there’s any question that communities of colour would have been handled much, much differently”. In light of this, it seems as though the Capitol police was complicit in the breach itself through their tacit support of the rioters intents to storm the building.
Following this double standard was Donald Trump, who in 2020, wasted no time to refer to BLM protesters as “thugs”, “agitators” and “looters”, which is at odds with his referral to last week’s rioters as “great patriots”. Most notably his phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, starkly contrasts the police’s relaxed response to rioters stealing artefacts from the Capitol, including laptops and the speaker’s lectern, and even defecation on furniture and art.
The storming was an obvious COVID super spreader event as noted by public health experts. In this case, the very much ongoing pandemic seemed an afterthought, contrasting sharply with attitudes last year- where many marked the racial injustice protests as potential breeding grounds for the virus in efforts to thwart civil rights campaigns.
President-elect Joe Biden’s speech after the storming in which he called the assault “scenes of chaos” that “do not reflect the True America”. Reaffirming again that “this is not who we [Americans] are”. Is America truly the beacon of light, honour, decency and tolerance that Biden has expressed that it is? As well as the horrific treatment against those who participated in the 2020 protests in response to police brutality, USA’s history is of as nation built on genocide, theft and slavery.
With this in mind, letting white supremacists run rampant is perhaps the most by-definition American thing imaginable, at least on the surface. Is it possible that, contrary to Biden’s words, this event has in fact unveiled America for what it truly is?