Unequal Treatment by the Law
What would have happened at the U.S. Capitol if the insurrectionists were Black?
We all know the answer to that question, because we have spent the last eight months watching it play out on TV. Tear gas would have filled the air, rubber bullets would have been fired from all directions, pepper spray would have been immediately deployed and flash bangs would have been popping every few seconds. And all of it would have taken place long before anyone reached the Capitol steps.
Now, let’s for a moment imagine the unlikely scenario that Black rioters somehow made it all the way to the doors and started smashing windows, like the Trump supporters did. Then what would have happened?
First, they would have been beaten with batons until their limbs broke, if they were lucky. Worst-case scenario, they would have been repelled by a hail of live bullets, turning the scene into a bloodbath. We all know this to be true.
But Wednesday’s rioters were mostly white, so here’s what transpired instead.
Capitol Police opened the gates and allowed the insurrectionists to breach the perimeter. Some took selfies with them. Others stood and watched while rioters busted through glass. Capitol Police, by and large, allowed themselves to be overrun by a bunch of mostly middle-aged extremists, hopped up on lies and disinformation, without putting up much of a defense.
So, once again, America has learned that our officers are capable of showing tremendous restraint. That is, when Trump supporters are involved.
Clearly, there are two Americas when it comes to law enforcement.
There is the America in which peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights are prematurely declared to be participating in an unlawful assembly and then met with excessive force. There is the America in which federal buildings are protected by opaque federal agencies, who stuff demonstrators into unmarked rental vehicles. There is the America in which any and all dissent is squashed at the drop of a hat.
That’s the America with which communities of color and their allies are well acquainted, one in which participating in a protest requires a helmet, goggles and shield for your own protection; and a gallon of milk to get the pepper spray out of your eyes.
Then there’s the other America. Trump’s America.
In this America, furious protesters are allowed to arm themselves with automatic weapons and march straight into the Michigan State Capitol building, because they are mad about public-safety measures meant to protect them from a deadly virus.
In this America, a ginned-up 60-year-old Trump supporter can break into the Speaker of the House’s office, pose for a photo as he puts his feet up on her desk, steal her mail and then give multiple interviews bragging about it without fear of reprisal. That man, Richard Barnett, made it all the way back to his home in Arkansas before the FBI finally arrested him two days later.
In this America, looters like 36-year-old Adam Christian Johnson of Parrish, Fla., smile and wave for the cameras as they pilfer podiums and take home congressional keepsakes as souvenirs.
In this America, a police officer will allow himself to be smashed in the head with a fire extinguisher before using deadly force against an out-of-control mob. That man, 42-year-old Brian Sicknick, tragically died.
There were exceptions, including the one officer who shot and killed San Diego resident Ashli Babbitt, 35. Video showed Babbit to be among a group trying to smash through two doors to gain access to the Speaker's lobby, as several officers stood by and did nothing.
But in far more instances, many officers seemed to be downright complicit. As some of the marauders left the Capitol, one officer even held a lady’s hand and assisted her as she walked down the steps. How gentlemanly.
And what a contrast from what the Black Lives Matter crowd has experienced. Who can forget when federal officers whaled on 53-year-old Navy veteran Christopher David with their batons and then pepper-sprayed him in the face in Portland? Or when Austin, Tex., police critically injured 20-year-old Texas State University student Justin Howell? Or when Buffalo police shoved 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground, cracking his head open and causing the septuagenarian a brain injury?
The dichotomy is undeniable.