NEW YORK (AP) — Black Lives Matter protests, 2020: Overwhelming force from law enforcement in dozens of cities. Chemical dispersants. Rubber bullets and hand-to-hand combat with largely peaceful crowds and some unruly vandals and looters. More than 14,000 arrests.
The U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021: Barely more than a few dozen arrests. Several weapons seized, improvised explosive devices found. Members of a wilding mob escorted from the premises, some not even in handcuffs.
The key difference?
The first set of protesters were overwhelmingly Black Americans and their allies. The second group was overwhelmingly white Americans who support outgoing President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.
The violent breaching of the halls of power on Capitol Hill by the insurrectionist mob on Wednesday, which left one woman dead of a police gunshot wound, represents one of the plainest displays of a racial double standard in both modern and recent history.
“When Black people protest for our lives, we are all too often met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, shields, tear gas and battle helmets,” the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation said in a statement.
“When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene, going so far as to pose for selfies with terrorists,” it said.
Newly sworn-in St. Louis Rep. Cori Bush, who was among the protesters to face down police and National Guardsmen in 2014 after police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, told The Associated Press that the race of the Capitol rioters played a big part in their ability to breach the congressional fortress.
Had the mob been Black, “we would have been laid out,” Bush said.
“The thing is, these are the same people who called us terrorists,” Bush continued. “Confederate flags, ‘don’t tread on me,’ ‘blue lives matter’ flags, the Trump flags — all of it symbolizes the same thing. It symbolizes racism and white supremacy.”
The show of force by law enforcement at the Capitol bore little resemblance to the lines of National Guardsmen and other police forces that assembled last year to protect luxury brand retailers against looting, government buildings against breaching and highways against marching by demonstrators across the country.
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, the nation’s largest digital racial justice advocacy group, told the AP that he sees it as “a clear example of how racism works in this country and the clear ways there are different sets of rules and different sets of outcomes based on what race you are.”