The deep racial inequality in the United States was highlighted after a crowd of predominantly white supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol with ease on Wednesday, then left with few immediate consequences, according to reports. Washington residents, activists and politicians, including President-elect Joe Biden.
Rioters broke through barricades, smashed windows, stole memorabilia and entered offices and chambers of Congress, some taking photos with police.
Some took trophies with them on their way out.
The lack of security and the limited police response, despite weeks of promoting the pro-Trump protest that sparked the riot, contrasted sharply with the largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC six months ago. .
“My mother said if you did this you would be shot,” said Beatrice Mando, who works for the district and attended BLM protests last year. “She’s right. There would be hundreds of deaths, if not more, if this group were black.
In a speech on Thursday, Biden agreed there was a stark contrast.
“No one can tell me that if it was a group of Black Lives Matter that had protested yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently from the mob of thugs who stormed the Capitol,” a- he declared.
The United States has seen a summer of widespread protests against racial injustice that began in May after the murder of George Floyd, a black man who died as a Minneapolis police station knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
In Washington, DC, participants in these protests said their welcome was very different.
“There were cops at every intersection in Washington. There were cops in every monument, on the Capitol, in front of the White House, ”said Abby Conejo, 29, who works for a small business in Washington, DC.
Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington, DC had been confronted with rows of masked National Guard soldiers at the Lincoln Memorial in June, as Trump vowed to crack down on what he called the anarchy of ‘thugs’ and’ thugs ”.
One evening, police fired smoke cartridges, flashbang grenades and rubber bullets to ward off peaceful White House protesters, so Trump could walk to a nearby church and be photographed holding a Bible.
“They treated us like enemies,” Conejo said. “Where was that anger and rage yesterday?” Why were these people treated like friends? “
Worried about a repeat
The DC Police Department said Thursday it had arrested 68 people in connection with the Capitol unrest. By comparison, nearly 300 were arrested there the night police evacuated Black Lives Matter protesters near the White House.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund praised his officers, saying they “responded valiantly” when protesters attacked them with “metal pipes, dumped chemical irritants and took drugs. other weapons “and also faced two homemade bombs.
Sund later said he would resign effective Jan. 16, according to a letter quoted by media.
Local residents said they feared the police response was so muted that there could be a repeat.
Charles Allen, a DC board member who represents the area, said he and his neighbors were used to First Amendment protests and large gatherings.
“It wasn’t what it was. It was an insurrection. These were national terrorists entering our city and trying to get past the Capitol, ”Allen said, adding that it was traumatic for the neighborhood.
“I think people will feel encouraged to be able to do this and I think that on top of that they will feel emboldened because they left with memories,” he said.
Among the crowd that stormed the Capitol were individuals waving Confederate flags and wearing clothing bearing insignia and slogans espousing white supremacist beliefs.
“It was like abuse to see not only white privilege but white supremacy in action,” said Makia Green, organizer of Black Lives Matter in Washington, DC. “To see the bias of the government, the police.”
KIPP DC Public Schools, a group of local charter schools, canceled classes on Thursday, citing the feelings of its predominantly black student body after the riot.
“We are disgusted when we think of the contrast between the way our country reacts to this act of domestic terrorism and the peaceful protests of last summer,” he said in a statement.
Charles McKinney, associate professor of history at Rhodes College in Tennessee, said Wednesday’s events in Washington, DC, recalled the “gross disparities” in the way blacks and whites are treated by the forces of the United States. order.
“The law enforcement response was a blatant display of systemic racism. It was a demonstration of white privilege, of the disparities in maintaining order in this country, ”he said.