As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and advance as far as the Senate Chamber.
In the build up to the attack, Trump and his allies delivered speeches near the White House reaffirming his baseless claim that the election was fraudulent and that they must fight to overturn the election results.
As rioters made their way past the barricades and through the doors, one thing was clear: at the time of the attack, there were few attempts made by police to stop the rioters. This comes as a sharp contrast to the Black Lives Matter protests that took place just this past summer, in which peaceful protestors were frequently met with violent police intervention.
According to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project that took place May 1 to November 28, 2020, Black Lives Matter protesters were significantly more peaceful than right wing groups, but law enforcement resorted to using force in 51% of Black Lives Matters demonstrations they engaged with, while only restoring to using force in 34% of right wing demonstrations they interacted with during the same period.
These statistics confirm what many activists already knew. The Lumberjack has documented the Eureka Police Department using more force against protesters in Eureka this past summer than the capitol police used when an attack was made against the capitol. The police use more force against journalists documenting protests than when right wing groups raided the capitol building.
On January 6, it took the National Guard four hours to deploy from the D.C. Armory from the time that the mob began making their way from where Trump was speaking. In contrast, in June at the height of the Black Lives Matters protests, there were about 1,700 National Guard members from Washington D.C. alone who were mobilized to respond to the demonstrators.
The feeble response from authorities in Washington D.C. to the attack on the Nation’s Capital is another undeniable example of racial biases that remain alive and thriving in this country. Our police protect white domestic terrorists and continue to endanger the lives of Black protesters advocating to have their voices heard and their equality recognized.
It is a message to all of the activists who choose to speak out against police brutality and all the journalists who cover the efforts of activists. Even here in Humboldt County activists face police brutality for daring to ask for an end to police brutality. Meanwhile, police open the gates across the country for violent extremists. The department might be different, but the institution is the same.
It will take a dramatic institutional change in how the country approaches law and law enforcement to begin to dismantle the structure of white supremacy. The attack on the capitol showed the world that the institutions of law in D.C. need to change, but we have the same institutions here at home. Humboldt needs to change, too.