Black Protests Get Policed Like Riots. Washington’s White Riot Hardly Got Policed at All.
The police who see a 12-year-old Black boy as a threat didn’t see much of one in thousands of grown Trump supporters storming the Capitol.
I kept rewatching footage of an officer in riot gear, his shield in one hand and the wrist of a woman wearing a MAGA hat in the other, the cop patiently leading her down the stairs to make sure she didn’t fall. This white lady had just tried to overthrow the government alongside thousands of others who’d stormed Congress, a white riot to stop the transfer of power.
Six years earlier, when Miriam Carey—a Black woman—drove too close to the Capitol building, police shot at her car more than 20 times, despite her 1-year-old daughter being inside. They somehow missed the baby but fatally shot Carey five times.
But now the cops were gingerly leading white terrorists who had literally tried to take over the government out of the Capitol building. White supremacy irks me every day, but the perks of white power and privilege are so palpable sometimes you almost understand why these Trump thugs are fighting so hard to maintain it.
The MAGA throngs who descended on the Capitol knew they would make out just fine because the cops would allow them to. The police took selfies with the white terrorists, and the white terrorists hung out on the Capitol stairs while the police looked on. I guess the members of the Trump mob told themselves that they were risking their lives for this president, but does it even count when you know that the cops are on the side of whiteness? What we had there wasn’t two oppositional groups, but a mutual admiration society of armed and racist thugs visually distinguishable only by their respective uniforms.
Try to imagine for one second Black Lives Matter protesters getting anywhere near the Capitol building. The cops spent this summer beating the shit out of anti-racist protesters, with the blessing and goading of this racist president. “When the Looting Starts, the Shooting Starts,” Donald Trump tweeted once, a callback to an old segregationist refrain. We know which “looters” he meant. Many of this summer’s anti-racist demonstrations were “peaceful,” and while some may have protested through property destruction, nary a one vandalized or tried to lay siege to the Capitol building. Yet the police responded to those protesters with ultraviolence. They fired tear gas and flash-bangs into crowds, pepper-sprayed folks in the face, ran over demonstrators with horses and cars, and sprayed rubber bullets that fractured skulls and knocked out teeth.
None of the familiar police violence was on display Wednesday, even as white mobs committed the treasonous, terrorist violence the cops have falsely blamed anti-racist activists for. Protest against racist violence and the police will use every weapon at their disposal to attack you, but stage a violent coup to overturn democracy in order to keep an overtly racist blowhard in office, and the cops look the other way. After a few hours, they’ll issue a warning over the loudspeakers that you have to leave, but you’re apparently still welcome to lollygag on the grounds in front. And these white terrorists pulled the same act in multiple state capitols around the country. The police would have started killing Black folks at random if we tried anything like that. And there are plenty of corners where they would be called heroes.
As I write this, the vast majority of the white terrorists in Washington who tried to take over the government and who “Back the Blue” specifically because it maintains racial order are walking freely. If Wednesday re-proved anything (as if there were any question) it’s that police make a choice to treat Black folks the way they do. And a choice to treat white folks like people. And that white power is as powerful as ever.