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Treatment of Capitol rioters inconsistent with treatment of protesters of color

Rioters inside the Capitol
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jan 07, 2021

The 15th Amendment.

The 13th Amendment.

Redlining.

Separate but equal.

There is no shortage of historical moments to show how African Americans have been treated worse than white people.

Wednesday, in the nation’s Capital, is proof of another as hundreds of mostly white Trump supporters stormed a federal government building. They were met with minimal resistance from those protecting the Capitol.

One woman was shot and killed by police. Three others died from medical emergencies.

President-elect Joe Biden called it one of the darkest days in American history. A history including 400 years of oppression for African Americans.

Two weeks from being the next President of the United States, Biden didn’t hold back.

“No one can tell me, had this been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said. “We all know that’s true. It is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”

In the months after George Floyd was killed by police, tens of thousands of people marched in the streets against police brutality and injustice. They were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and other force.

Wednesday, one woman was shot and killed by police and three others dead from medical emergencies. However, as hundreds climbed up the sides of the Capitol, they met little resistance.

"I’m not surprised,” Porche Bennett-Bey, a Kenosha activist said. “Now you guys see what we’ve been trying to say.”

Bennett-Bey was named as the Guardian of the Year by TIME Magazine. She has been on the front lines of the Kenosha protests and has seen firsthand how protesters have been treated. She sees a double standard in how the Trump supporters were handled Wednesday.

“The same people who called us animals and terrorists really had nothing to say about that yesterday,” Bennett-Bey said. “The way they acted yesterday wasn’t surprising. They just allowed a nation and the entire world to see their character.”

Just a day before the insurrection at the Capitol, the epicenter of the social injustice movement in August was filled with 500 hundred members of the National Guard. Kenosha was bracing for any possibility of another period of unrest when the District Attorney announced no charges would be filed against the officer who shot Jacob Blake.

The resulting activity was peaceful, with protesters marching around the cold streets of Kenosha before calling it quits for the night.

"Our courthouse and dinosaur museum was more guarded than the Capitol was yesterday,” Bennett-Bey said. “This is a little, bitty city. We have troops here, standing guard in front of the courthouse. The Capitol didn’t have that.”

“Black protesters would have been shot and killed,” Representative David Bowen said. “It would have been a pile of Black bodies.”

Bowen has been in the streets with protesters in Wisconsin. He too feels there is a double standard in how security was prepared for this event in comparison to a predominantly Black-led event; even though a recent study by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project found 93 percent of Black Lives Matter protests were deemed peaceful.

"The Capitol Police has over a $400 million budget and made no plans to have personnel in place like they did months ago,” Bowen said. “I saw young people from Milwaukee in D.C. and met with tanks and force and tear gas and rubber bullets. The full nine.”

Neil Trugman, a former Capitol Police officer, says he was surprised by how the Capitol Police handled the situation.

“There was a lack of coordination,” Trugman said. “Intel should have had some kind of information on this group. Whether they were bringing firearms, which is illegal in the District of Columbia, or if they could become disruptive. It’s hard for me to say what I’m about to say. Yesterday, white privilege was put in our face.”

"We’ve criminalized being Black,” Ion Meyn, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin said. “You talk about the difference between police response, to what’s been called an insurrection. An all-white crowd, statistically, that approached and breached the walls of Congress and it didn’t amount to violence and didn’t amount to arrests represents the degree of white entitlement and privilege to any space and ownership to the people’s house because white people are the people.”

Meyn points to implicit biases people have as to why the response was what it was.

“Do we perceive Trump protesters as dangerous?” Meyn questioned. “Even though, many of them in the past, or groups within those Trump supporters, have been armed in many different situations, as dangerous? The answer is no because they’re white.”

For Bennett-Bey, she’s just making sure when people look at this event from a critical perspective, there is a big difference between what she does and what was seen on TV.

“That’s not a protester,” Bennett-Bey said. “What we did here, when we got the wrong answer we didn’t want to hear, that’s protesting. What they did, those are terrorists.”

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