The soft treatment by law enforcers of the Capitol Hill insurrectionists comes in sharp contrast to the heavy-handed police response to Black Lives Matter protests around the country in 2020 and here in St. Louis since 2014. Millions watched as President Donald Trump’s most extreme supporters answered his and Sen. Josh Hawley’s call to descend on Washington and stop Congress from certifying the presidential election.
Yet a brazen attack on the nation’s Capitol — scaling walls, bashing through windows and ransacking the offices and chambers of our nation’s top elected representatives — yielded a shockingly limp response by police. The rioters openly defied police orders to cease and desist.
Of the hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol and the thousands more who violated an emergency 6 p.m. curfew, only 68 people were arrested in this wanton display of lawlessness, most for curfew violations.
Black Americans were left justifiably shaking their heads, imagining how different the response certainly would have been if it had been a crowd of Black protesters doing the same thing.
Trump, the self-described “law and order” president who threatened to enact the Insurrection Act last summer amid protests around the country against the killing of George Floyd, on Wednesday referred to his rampaging supporters as “very special.” He expressed his “love” for them.
In June, he ordered peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters to be tear-gassed so he could arrange a photo op near the White House. The Capitol Hill rioters got off with a hand slap, if even that.
The tragic irony here is that the difference in the way law enforcement treats Black Americans compared to their white counterparts is exactly what the Black Lives Matter protests are about.
Last year, when Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old from Illinois, headed to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with his semiautomatic rifle to join a local vigilante group, local police praised the group for standing guard outside businesses during Black Lives Matter protests. After he allegedly shot three people, killing two, he was allowed to leave the scene unimpeded by police.
In June 2015, after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine Black churchgoers in their Charleston, South Carolina, place of worship, the mass murderer was treated kindly by police and even brought a Burger King hamburger to eat before recording his confession of his atrocious crimes.
Contrast that treatment with the “rough ride” treatment given to Freddie Gray by the Baltimore police that same year. Gray, a 25 year-old Black man, died from injuries he sustained while being transported in the back of a police van.
The right to equal protection under the law remains elusive for too many Americans. Respect and kid-gloves treatment was the last thing the violent, traitorous insurrectionists deserved after Wednesday’s attack on the nation’s most sacred symbol of democracy.