Deputy Managing Editor
The attempt to undermine and further threaten the outcome of our election, aka the Jan. 6 coup attempt, was a flagrant display of how much the “blue lives matter” crowd can trample (and even kill) blue lives without facing the same violent and brutal repercussions as Black people protesting for their lives. Yet, the passivity of police pulled back the curtain for those unwilling to do it themselves to show how the police state plays an active role in upholding white supremacy. With Linda Oubré, the President of Whittier College — who, allegedly, is committed to racial justice within our institution — tweeting that the act of acknowledging the fascist siege on the Capitol was vastly different from the Black Lives Matter protests and riots is hypocritical. The contrast between the police and governmental response between the two must continue to be highlighted. There is also a comparison to be made connecting the behavior of the insurrectionists and the police they pretend to support. We must unflinchingly condemn violent white supremacy as it occurs in citizens and the institutions that support them. As the Jan. 6 event proves, there is no peace to be found between systems that encourage violent white supremacy.
The “Stop the Steal” events of Wednesday, consisting of the protest, the attack on our democratic processes, and the violence it entailed, were not unknown, with the disgraced President Donald Trump tweeting to his supporters on Dec. 19: “Be there, will be wild!” The Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund, who announced his resignation effective Jan. 16, stated that they had prepared a “robust plan,” with D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee III stating: “There was no intelligence that suggested there would be a breach of the U.S. Capitol.” The photos of protesters holding their guns and blatantly spreading their plans argue otherwise. On Nov. 5, two whole months before the planned “protest,” Facebook banned the “Stop the Steal” group — which had gathered upwards of 350,000 members — for calling for violence against elected officials, such as in one member’s comment of “Neither side is going to concede. Time to clean the guns, time to hit the streets.”
Stop pretending the lack of response to a direct attack on the results of our election was a fluke. The passivity in policing violent white supremacists allowed the insurrectionists the comfort of freely travelling after terrorizing government officials as they certified the 2020 presidential election results. Adam Johnson, who stole Nancy Pelosi’s lectern, was arrested in his home state of Florida on Jan. 9, three days following the siege. Jake Angeli, whose body is adorned in white supremacist symbols and has annointed himself the QANON “shaman,” was also arrested on Jan. 9 in Pheonix, Ariz.; Angeli admitted to the FBI that he came to the Capitol as a patriot following Trump’s request. The man photographed in Pelosi’s office with his feet on her desk, with her computer unlocked and opened in front of him, Richard Barnett, was arrested in Arkansas on Jan. 8; if convicted, he faces up to only one year in federal prison. Meanwhile, BLM protesters have faced felony charges; Derrick Ingram faced seven years for felony assault because he shouted in a cop’s ear with a loudspeaker, until the Manhattan district attorney reduced it to a misdemeanor. Police hand out felony charges like candy to BLM protesters, but slap fascists on the wrist.
These individuals, plus countless others, did not storm the Capitol with the intentions of chilling in Representatives’ offices, playing pretend in Senate chambers, or strolling through the marble halls. Protesting and rioting are an important part of stirring action from our elected officials; this was neither. This violent storm on the Capitol was to halt the election processes, harass journalists, and threaten elected officials — a fascistic display of terrorism. To paint it as anything else is to uphold our oppressive judicial, electoral, and societal systems that encourage white supremacy to thrive.
On Jan. 6, fascist insurrectionists attacked, detained, and threatened journalists, with someone carving “Murder the Media” into a Capitol door. These images felt parallel to the police attacks on journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests that led to 328 press freedom violations filed in a single week of June 2020, more than the total of 150 filed in 2019. Within this time, spanning from May 26 to June 6, 54 journalists were arrested, police were responsible for 173 reported assaults on journalists (there were 208 in total), and 83 journalists reported being hit by rubber bullets and other projectiles.
During BLM protests, there were 950 recorded acts of police violence against citizens (which is considered to be a severe underestimation), including the use of tear gas, declarations of unlawful assembly used to arrest protesters, and moments where police were passive towards white supremacist and right-wing instagators/counter-protesters. 200 of these acts occurred in Portland, where police spent $117,500 on teargas and less-lethal munitions. In Seattle alone, there were 12,000 complaints against police for excessive force over the weekend of May 30, 2020. Plain clothed federal officers used unmarked cars to pull protesters off of the streets to arrest them without explanation. By June 8, 10,000 Black Lives Matter protesters had been arrested, many people detained for hours or days for simple citations or charges that would later be dropped.
At the Capitol, police walked away from insurrectionists breaking down barricades, were shown on video taking selfies with those that had broken in, and escorted violent white supremacists from the Capitol like they were just children who threw a tantrum. Tear gas was not deployed until insurrectionists had breached the Capitol Police. Yet, it was exceedingly clear there were deadly intentions behind the attempted coup; one man was found carrying 11 Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs were removed from the Democratic National and Republican National Committees, police recovered multiple weapons, and a truck full of explosives and guns was found near the Capitol. Despite the vast array of information that suggested these were possible outcomes, as aforementioned, the National Guard and other federal law enforcement did not get involved because of backlash from their involvement in BLM protests, and a secure perimeter was not established until Thursday, when fencing was constructed around the Capitol. A total of 82 insurrectionists were arrested, while law enforcements still search for hundreds more.
BLM protests never received this benefit of the doubt. Miles away, and just days earlier, a towering, black metal fence went up around the Kenosha, Wic. courthouse as a prosecutor prepared to announce that there would be no charges against the officer who shot and paralyzed Jakob Blake. During the summer, tear gas filled a park during a violin vigil for Elijah McCain, making children and their parents flee from the peaceful display in honor of the peaceful man police killed. A number of images surfaced this summer of police officers with full riot gear, pointing the barrels of their “less-lethal” weapons at children and unarmed adults mere feet away. The National Guard lined the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, stoic in riot gear and looking ready for war, an image absent on Jan. 6.
Police in riot gear at Lincoln Memorial during Black Lives Matter protests, a stark contrast to the police response during the Capitol siege. Photo courtesy of Win Mcnamee / Getty Images / The Washington Post.
It is for this very reason that the “riot” language cannot be applied to the fascist attack on the Capitol. Black people and those protesting for equality were always met with police brutality and their displays of sorrow and dismay always treated as criminal. When Black people did riot, it was often incited at the hands of police brutality detailed above, but there was a build-up of anger stemming from years of oppression, years of courts telling them their lives didn’t matter more than the occupations of police, and years of police and the government silencing their dissent. Yes, there was also a build-up of privileged white people using the protests as an excuse to vandalize despite Black activists telling them their actions put Black people at risk. Still, 93 percent of BLM protests were peaceful and, yet, were met with significantly more organized police violence than the insurrectionists.
There is nothing peaceful about the existence of fascist white supremacists. Those who stormed the capitol acted to create terror, to turn over an election that Black and Indigenous voters largely determined. White supremacists are not oppressed in this country, but their actions serve to suppress the voices of people of color and burn the splinters of the democratic republic. Stop the Steal “protests” occurred at state capitals and government buildings around the country, further emphasizing the prevalence of fascist ideology in the U.S. and the lack of resistance it is met with. The lack of action from Capitol Police paints a perfect picture of our government coddling white supremacists, effectively prioritizing their voices over marginalized communities. The six Senators and 121 House members who objected to the certification of the election as well as the representatives who participated in the attempted coup (including Whittier City Councilwoman Jessica Martinez) not only upheld systemic racism, but encouraged its prosperity.
Already, the solutions mostly-Democrats are proposing suggest more policing, more 9/11-era policies. To stomp out white supremacy and its roots intertwined throughout our government, we must turn from the gut-reaction of more weapons, more military, more infringes on our rights. There is no similarity between BLM protests or riots and the fascist coup attempt on Jan. 6. Any hypocrisy stems from believing that condemning both will lead to progress within our country. Fascism is welcome in the U.S. because of our history of failing to identify it in our systems, government, and citizens. This history exploded on Jan. 6 in confederate flags, bared white supremacist tattoos, brazen displays of anti-semetic slogans, and zip-tie cuffs eerily similar to those police carried at BLM protests this summer. The violence from this coup attempt is still bubbling to the surface and will continue to do so because of the inaction they were and still are met with. Capitol Police’s complicity on Jan. 6 was actually a loud and clear statement to fascists: violent white supremacy that threatens any semblance of democracy in the U.S. will always be welcome over marginalized voices at their most peaceful.
Featured Image: Compiled by Emerson Little / Quaker Campus
Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.