Of all the horrific details that came to light about the riots in Washington, DC last week, two have left me with weird and emotional bruises.
Here is the first one. As pro-Trump rioters rampaged through the Capitol building, forcing lawmakers to rush to safety, a group of young employees for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had no choice but to take cover in a conference room of his office. They barricaded the door, turned off the lights, hid under a table – in silence – for two and a half hours and listened to the madness outside. Here’s the part I can’t shake: it was a survival tactic they learned fromgrow with active shooting exercisesat school.
Here is the second.
Images from inside the Capitol showed a Black Capitol police officer, later identified by CNN as Eugene Goodman, making a split-second decision to encourage an angry crowd to follow him away from the Senate chambers by using itself as bait. Igor Bobic, a political reporter for the Huffington Post, captured the tense moment in a video heposted on twitter. It shows Goodman glancing quickly to the left at the open Senate floor door that had not yet been fully evacuated. He then pushed one of the rioters lightly to get his attention and taunted them for following him to the right and up a flight of stairs where other police were waiting. He may have saved lives.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, made his feelings clear. “As Trump’s fascist mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol, this brave USCP officer drove the murderous rioters away from the Senate chamber and saved the lives of those there. May God bless him for his courage, “he tweeted.
Goodman of course benefited from his professional training. But no one is training you to find a way to do your job as a lonely black man in the face of a hate-fueled mob carrying weapons, Confederate flags, and Nazi cosplay gear.
Well now that I think about it America has done a good job reminding black people that they are not welcome in their own country and school children that there is nothing they can do about violence. massive. We need to start connecting these dots.
Goodman clearly had his hands full on many fronts. Other black police officers told Buzzfeed News that they were repeatedly called the N word as they were attacked by well-trained and fully armed rioters. Some were law enforcement officers from across the country, flashing their badges and demanding admission. An officer reported that a white colleague was taking selfies with insurgents, which were adorned with symbols of white supremacy. “This one hurt me the most because I was on the other side of the Capitol getting my ass kicked,” said the officer.
The aptly named Mr. Goodman and the young employees who work on Capitol Hill are the best of us today, people who have found a way to do their jobs under unimaginable circumstances. But here’s the problem: These circumstances were clearly imaginable and completely preventable. As more violence is planned out in the open, shrugs and lukewarm calls for unity are a familiar abomination that has allowed racism and violence to continue unabated throughout our history.
The first thing Mr. Goodman and the staff did right was to properly assess the threat they faced. If the United States is to recover, we will have to do the same.