On Wednesday evening in Washington DC, hundreds of pro-Trump rioters, egged on by the President himself, charged to the US Capitol, where Congress was set to certify Joe Biden’s presidency. After making their way to Capitol Hill, the mob proceeded to push past police and break into the Capitol building, smashing windows, looting and rioting, as members of Congress were forced to lock themselves in rooms and shelter in place. Trump, who had told his followers he’d join them, instead watched the scenes from the safety of the White House, later releasing a video telling his supporters “I love you” and calling them “very special” and “great patriots”. His message resulted in Twitter suspending his account for the first time in his presidency, as well as both Instagram and Facebook swiftly deactivating his social media profiles.
The violent protest, which was watched by millions around the world, was baffling, confusing and, as Rep. Joyce Beatty put it, absolutely ridiculous. It showed just how divided the USA has become, just how important a President’s words are, and how vastly different the responses to violence are when it’s white people at the centre.
Despite the mob being, in some cases, heavily armed, overtly aggressive and violent, breaking windows, into government offices and looting, law enforcement seemed incredibly slow to take control of the situation, their response vastly different to the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests just six months earlier.
On June 1st, when Black Lives Matter protestors gathered a block away from the White House – making no attempt to enter the building – the crowd was charged by the Washington police and more than 5,000 national guard troops. The peaceful protesters were tear-gassed while batons and horses were used to clear a block so that Trump could stage a photo op outside of a church.
Unlike his response to last night’s riot, during Black Lives Matter, Trump called those on the streets ‘thugs’, quickly deploying the National Guard to Washington DC and his own special forces to select cities and threatening participants with “MINIMUM TEN YEARS IN PRISON” should they vandalise public property – just imagine what he would have said should protestors have turned their sights to the Capitol Building!
This is what the Capitol steps looked like during BLM protests, for the record. pic.twitter.com/recG2hCmFj
— Dani Beck (@_DaniBeck) January 6, 2021
Around the country during BLM, scenes of police violence were recorded as peaceful protestors were beaten by police, driven to remote locations in the pitch black, and tear gas and rubber bullets were deployed – the latter sometimes resulting in irreversible, severe damage to those wounded. Meanwhile, last night, a white man sat in Vice President Mike Pence’s chair in the Senate Chamber, while another had his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk.
Professor and author Ibram X. Kendi responded to the obvious and disturbing difference in response on Twitter, writing, “White privilege is on display like never before in the U.S. Capitol. If these people were Black… well, we all know what would be happening to them right now.”
As activist Bree Newsome Bass wrote on Twitter, “if it’s not necessary for police to use tear gas against the fascists storming the Capitol, it’s not necessary in any circumstance.”