The rioters in Washington, DC, did not succeed in their endeavor to overthrow the election results. In the early morning hours on Thursday, US House representatives and senators certified Joe Biden’s victory and formally made way for him and Kamala Harris to become the next president and vice president of the United States. But it’s what came before that will go down as one of the darkest days in US history.
Encouraged by President Donald Trump, a violent, overwhelmingly white crowd overpowered Capitol police and forced its way into the building. They waved flags, posed for pictures on the Senate floor and stole items from leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
When the storm on the Capitol was over, four people were dead – one woman had been shot and three people died in “medical emergencies,” DC Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee said at a press conference. As of 9:30 pm on Wednesday, there had been roughly 52 arrests, according to DC police. Most of those people were detained because they were violating the 6 pm curfew instituted by Washington’s mayor Muriel Bowser.
In the hours following Wednesday’s events, countless people began contrasting law enforcement’s behavior during the riot with how officers had treated Black Lives Matter protesters last summer. Thousands of demonstrators from across the US had taken to the streets after African American George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020. In Washington, DC, the protests had centered on what became Black Lives Matter Plaza, a stone’s throw from the White House.
The situation had escalated on June 1, 2020, when militarized law enforcement officers in riot gear had used tear-gas-like chemical agents and brute force to push back peaceful protesters so that Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo op.
“When Black people protest for our lives, we are met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, tear gas and battle helmets,” the official account of the Black Lives Matter movement tweeted on Wednesday. “When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene.”
Melvin Edwards, an African-American author and cultural observer based in Maryland, said he wasn’t surprised by how the events on Wednesday unfolded.
“There certainly seems to be a difference in the level of force and how quickly force is enacted on different groups,” said Edwards, the author of “The Eyes of Texans: From Slavery to the Texas Capitol.”
He went on to tell DW that part of this was due to “predetermined reactions by police that certain people are more violent than others. I think it’s generally considered, even today unfortunately, that Black males are more dangerous than white males.”
The fact that police hadn’t arrested a significant number of the rioters who violently and illegally broke into a federal building, forcing politicians to seek shelter in their offices or under desks, caused anger and disbelief among many.
“White privilege is violently storming the US Capitol and just … being sent home,” tweeted Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Biden’s nominee for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Several athletes and coaches in the National Basketball Association (NBA), a league whose members have previously been vocal about racial injustices, spoke out about Wednesday’s events as well.
“Can you imagine today if those were all Black people storming the Capitol and what would have happened?” Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said to reporters before a game.
He pointed out that during the riot there had been “no police dogs turned on people, no billy clubs hitting people. People peacefully being escorted out of the Capitol. So it shows you can disperse a crowd peacefully, but it’s a sad day in a lot of ways.”
US Capitol riot: Critics see police double standards at play The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.