On the 6th of January, thousands of Trump supporters broke into the United States Capitol and proceeded to occupy, vandalize, destroy and loot parts of the building. The shocking pro-Trump riot was an attempt to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election as he lost to Democratic candidate Joe Biden. On the morning of January 6th, Donald Trump told his supporters to “take back our country” and to “fight like hell” in a now-deleted tweet. Trump supporters took Trump’s advice and stormed the Capitol just hours later.
After observing the footage of the shocking event, journalists and social media users have noted that the police officers took minimal action against the pro-Trump mob as they committed criminal acts. A total of five people were shot dead, but the vast majority of rioters were able to commit their crimes without being stopped by police. Officers simply stood by as the mob broke into the Capitol and casually conversed with the criminals instead of arresting them. There is even footage of a police officer posing for a selfie with one of the rioters and a video of a police officer nicely asking two illegal occupiers if they will leave the Senate Wing. So far, approximately 100 people have been arrested for their involvement in the riot and the vast majority of these arrests were not made until days or weeks after the event.
The leniency of the police and their lack of action against the criminal Trump supporters contrasts starkly with the treatment that Black Lives Matter protesters receive from police. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020 sparked outrage and led to an outbreak of Black Lives Matter protests all over America. Protesters demanded justice for Floyd and for the countless other victims of racist police brutality. However, protests against police brutality have been met with police brutality as Black Lives Matter protesters have been tasered, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, beaten with batons and even run over and shot by police officers. By June, 10,000 protesters had been arrested and most of them were peacefully protesting and abiding by the law. At a Martin Luther-King protest on the 18th of January 2021, there was another standoff between NYPD officers and demonstrators; several violent arrests were made which often involved multiple police officers aggressively taking down a single person. There is clearly a huge disparity between how Black Lives Matter protesters are treated by the police and how the pro-Trump rioters were treated by the police.
When Black people peacefully protest for human rights and fair treatment, heavily-armed police officers are ready to arrest and abuse them. When a mob of white Trump supporters riot over the defeat of their favoured president, there is a scarcity of police officers and the rioters are dealt with calmly and peacefully. This is a prime illustration of white privilege and racial inequality. Criminal Justice Professor Rod K. Brunson argues that the difference between the police response to Black Lives Matter protesters and to the Capitol rioters “shows us exactly who is perceived as dangerous in this country and who isn’t” as most of the Black Lives Matter protesters were Black, and the pro-Trump rioters were basically all white. Brunson, who has extensively researched Black men’s experiences with law enforcement in America, explains that Black people “live in a different world and have to navigate different social situations that white people do not”. He continues that when it comes to dealing with the law, the disparity is heightened because Black people are seen as threatening and their neighbourhoods are perceived as being dangerous, resulting in the increased scrutiny and surveillance that men of colour experience every day. We must educate ourselves on the racial injustices that Black people experience and do what we can to fight against it. Police officers must be held accountable and punished for racist police brutality and more needs to be done to ensure that people with racial biases are prevented from becoming officers.
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