Many have drawn comparisons between scenes at the Capitol to armed police responses during Black Lives Matter protests last year (Picture: Getty/Reuters/AP)
Congresspeople and anti-racism organisations have called out the ‘hypocrisy’ of the police response against pro-Trump rioters who violently stormed Capitol Hill, saying they were treated with less force due to their race.
The US National Guard was not deployed until hours after the mob broke into the Washington DC building and wreaked havoc on Wednesday, in a bid to block politicians’ formal approval of Joe Biden’s presidential election win.
Many have compared the Capitol scenes to pictures showing swathes of armed police and federal troops deployed to US Black Lives Matter protests last summer, including one of an officer aiming a gun at the face of a Black man with a toddler on his shoulders.
The images were shared side-by-side on social media with footage of an officer taking a selfie with a white pro-Trump rioter after breaking into the Capitol, along with images showing others stealing and vandalising federal property while waving at the camera.
Members of the D.C. National Guard stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as demonstrators participate in a peaceful protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 2, 2020 (Picture: Getty)
Trump was condemned by world leaders and all four surviving US presidents for inciting violence and empathising with the mob, before he was banned indefinitely on Facebook and Instagram and suspended from Twitter and Snapchat.
His failure to rein in his supporters was compared to his attitude last summer against protests calling for an end to racial inequality, following the killing of George Floyd.
In June, last year, the president ordered for peaceful protesters near the White House to be forcibly cleared with tear gas and rubber bullets, to stage a photo-op in front of a church, holding a Bible.
A month later, he warned ‘anarchists, agitators or protestors’ they could face a minimum of 10 years for vandalising or damaging ‘any federal buildings’ in the US, when activists attempted to pull down statues. He later threatened the military action, stating ‘when the looting starts the shooting starts’.
He tweeted amid the Minnesota BLM protests in July: ‘These THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!’
President Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St John’s Church on June 1, 2020, after protesters were forcibly cleared from an area near the White House (Picture: AP)
Trump wrote on Twitter amid Minnesota BLM protests ‘when the looting starts the shooting starts’ (Picture: Twitter)
During the Capitol siege he called the rioters, many of whom were armed, ‘very special’ and continued to repeat unsubstantiated claims that the November 3 presidential election was ‘stolen from us’.
He told them ‘go home, we love you’ – but did not condemn the violence that lead to police recovering two bombs and four people confirmed dead, with one fatally shot by police, and 68 people arrested. Washington’s mayor called the police response a ‘failure’.
Hours after the Capitol was sieged and put into lockdown, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wrote on Twitter: ‘They’ve killed us for less’.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, the official BLM Twitter wrote: ‘Make no mistake, if the protesters were Black, we would have been tear gassed, battered, and perhaps shot.’
‘When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene,’ continued the thread.
A demonstrater protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 9, 2016 (Picture: Reuters)
Capitol police officers help a woman as protesters gather on the U.S. Capitol Building (Picture: Getty)
BLM went on to call out the ‘hypocrisy in our country’s law enforcement response to protest’, as it warned ‘our democracy is under attack.’
It called on the ‘lead instigator’ President Trump to ‘stop fanning the flames of violence and lawlessness, and unequivocally urge his white supremacist and terrorist followers to step down and retreat’.
Democrat Rep. Cori Bush, who had to be evacuated as the mob broke into the building, agreed Capitol rioters were treated differently ‘simply because of the colour of the people’s skin who were there’.
In a video statement, she said: ‘I just think about had that group of people been Black and brown, especially Black. It would not have happened this way.
‘We wouldn’t have made it to the steps to be able to then come in the doors… there would not have been any of us with our feet up on a member’s desk.’
A pro-Trump rioter sits on the desk of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after breaching the US Capitol security in Washington (Picture: EPA)
‘We wouldn’t have made it that far,’ she continued. ‘We would have been shot had we tried to do all of that. Let’s just be real’.
She pledged ‘this is why we have to stand up’, before concluding her speech: ‘Donald Trump, the life of the woman that I hear died today that was shot. That blood, her blood is on his hands.’
Rep. Karen Bass echoed her fellow Congresswoman’s concerns and declared Wednesday a ‘sad day in history’, describing the scenes as an ‘attempted coup by the president of the United States’ to CBS LA.
While calling for all who broke into the Capitol to be arrested, the Democrat wrote on Twitter: ‘The people breaking into the Capitol are the same people that scream about law and order when there are Black Lives Matter protests.
‘The people that are attacking Capitol Police officers right now are the same people that say they stand with the police.’
Yesterday’s siege was eventually brought under control, after the army activated over 1,000 troops of the National Guard – but the order reportedly came from Vice-President Mike Pence rather than Trump.
Protesters clash with US Park Police after protesters attempted to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square near the White House on June 22, 2020 in Washington (Picture: Getty)
Before dawn on Thursday, lawmakers finished their work, confirming Biden won the election.
D.C. police said 68 people were arrested, while Capitol police said 14 were arrested, most for unlawful entry. More than 50 officers were injured, including several who were hospitalised, said Capitol police’s chief Steven Sund.
Chief Sund defended his department’s response to the storming of the Capitol, saying officers ‘acted valiantly when faced with thousands of individuals involved in violent riotous actions.’
He said rioters ‘actively attacked’ Capitol police and other law enforcement officers with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants and ‘took up other weapons against our officers.’
Chief Sund said the riots were ‘unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.
‘Make no mistake: these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior. The actions of the USCP officers were heroic given the situation they faced.’
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