After an armed and angry mob of mostly-white Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday in an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election, several political leaders and activists in the country have pointed out the stark contrast between the police’s response to the recent insurrection and the brutal use of force against Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors last year.
In a national address on Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden condemned the attack and acknowledged the clear difference in how law enforcement officials responded to the Capitol Hill siege.
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“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday, they would have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said. “We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.
We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 7, 2021
Meanwhile, Trump — who famously referred to the Black Lives Matter demonstrators as “thugs” — called the rioters involved in the attack on Capitol Hill “great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
As videos and images of the recent riot began to emerge, Black Lives Matter activists who were involved in last year’s anti-racism protests expressed outrage over what they saw as a clear manifestation of the US’ unequal justice system.
The protests for racial justice spread across the United States last year following the death of George Floyd — a black man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer strangled him with his knee last May. President Donald Trump had ordered a tough response to the protests, deploying National Guard troops in several states to suppress the demonstrators.
Here’s a look at how police responded to siege at the Capitol and the 2020 BLM protests
On January 6, 2021 hundreds of supporters of US President Donald Trump marched to the historic Capitol Building to protest against the certification of electoral votes, which would validate Biden’s victory. Despite the presence of law enforcement authorities, they climbed up the stairs of the building, and even broke through police barriers and scaled the outer walls that surround it.
In June last year, police and National Guard troops brutally cracked down on a group of anti-racism demonstrators who were peacefully protesting near Lafayette Park in Washington DC. They used tear gas and force to try and disperse the group as President Trump was expected to walk from the White House through the park to a church nearby for a photo-op.
During the siege on Wednesday, the lawmakers who had convened to certify the electoral college results were evacuated from the premises as chaos ensued. Many of their offices were broken into and looted as the pro-Trump rioters wrecked havoc in the halls of the Capitol.
For contrast, this is how the National Guard defended the Lincoln Memorial during BLM protests. pic.twitter.com/bZi36yeg9Z
— Bill Weir (@BillWeirCNN) January 6, 2021
An image dating back to June 2020, which features several members of the DC National Guard standing on the steps leading up to the Lincoln Memorial as Black Lives Matter demonstrators held a peaceful protest against police brutality, has been widely circulated on social media. In response to growing levels of civil unrest, National Guard troops were deployed in states across the country to suppress the anti-racism protests.
Meanwhile, the National Guard was deployed hours after the rioters had broken into the Capitol building on Wednesday. By this weekend, around 6,200 National Guard troops will move into Washington DC, where they will remain until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
During the protests last year, law enforcement officials clashed with demonstrators — spraying them with tear gas and using rubber bullets to disperse them. The brutality with which they attempted to crackdown on the protests earned them widespread condemnation from civil rights activists worldwide. In one instance, a police official in New York was seen pushing an elderly man to the ground.
Police hand walking a rioter down the stairs for her comfort. pic.twitter.com/IaNPs7OMRJ
— Alafair Burke (@alafairburke) January 6, 2021
While police deployed tear gas against the pro-Trump protestors, some law enforcement officials were also seen calmly reasoning with the rioters that had broken into the Capitol building. Images of law enforcement officials patiently tending to injured protestors have also caused an uproar amongst the BLM community, who did not receive the same treatment during last year’s protests.
Hundreds of protestors were arrested for unrest-related offences during the anti-racism protests of 2020. According to the Washington DC police department, 427 arrests were made between May 30 and June 2 last year during the racial justice protests in DC alone.
Just 53 people were arrested in Washington DC on Wednesday after the rioters stormed the Capitol Building.