“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently from the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.” – President-Elect Joe Biden
The contrast between the law enforcement reaction to the storming of the Capitol on January 6 and the suppression of peaceful protests in the summer is not just stark – it is black and white.
The Black Lives Matter demonstrators crowd outside the White House on June 2, 2020 was a block away from the building and made no attempt to breach its security. It was a mostly Black crowd, and it was charged by a force made up of Washington police, U.S. Park police, over 5,000 national guard troops and federal agencies like the Bureau of Prisons. An army helicopter swooped low over the heads of the protesters.
Teargas, batons and horses were used to clear a block so that Donald Trump could stage a photo op outside a church across the road. A national guard commander later admitted there had been “excessive use of force.”
The events in Lafayette Park in June 2020 represented a defining moment of the Trump presidency. So will January 6, 2021. The mob that stormed the seat of US democracy on Wednesday had openly talked about such a plan, were explicitly intent on overturning a fair election, and some had hinted they might be carrying guns. They were almost all white. Many were openly white supremacists, and yet the thin Capitol police collapsed in their path.
It is unknown why there was not a greater show of force in front of the Capitol building, given all that was known about the plans of Trump’s supporters. In the summer, the national guard from several states parked armored cars in the Washington streets and stood in full body armor in serried ranks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – all ahead of protests calling for the law to be upheld and an end to impunity for the police killing of Black Americans.
The deployment ahead of the January 6 riot was far lighter. After Washington’s Mayor Muriel Bowser made a request, 340 guardsmen were activated in advance, of which 115 were on duty at any one time, mostly helping direct traffic. The DC and Virginia national guard were only deployed in significant numbers after the Capitol had been breached.
One big difference was that Trump was driving the deployment in June. He was silent on January 6, apparently unwilling to deploy troops on his own supporters. The New York Times reported he resisted calling out the national guard. The deployment was finally ordered by the acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller.
Jіm Lо Scаlzо, Rоbеrtо Schmіdt, Wіn McNаmее, Еrіn Schаff, Jоsе Luіs Mаgаnа, Tоm Brеnnеr, аnd Jоnаthаn Еrnst
Originally published on The Guardian as Maga v BLM: how police handled the Capitol mob and George Floyd activists – in pictures