In response to the surprisingly unaggressive reaction to pro-Trump supporters mobbing the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden joined lawmakers in questioning whether the reaction would have been the same had the rioters been Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
After months of watching BLM protesters met by police in riot gear and batons, some have wondered why the same approach was not used during the first breach of the U.S. Capitol since 1814.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol,” Biden wrote Thursday on Twitter. “We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.”
Biden’s comments echoed criticisms by lawmakers, civil rights activists and social media users, calling Wednesday’s attack an example of “White privilege,” as a crowd of what appeared to be mostly White protesters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to subvert the certification of the Electoral College results.
“We would have been shot, had we tried to do all of that,” freshmen Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday night. “Let’s just be real, we would have been shot, tear gas would have been deployed outside, noise munitions, rubber bullets.”
Bush took shelter in her office with her staff — just three days after being sworn into office — as rioters flooded through the Capitol building.
Bush who had left the House chamber just minutes before the Capitol was breached, was unable to get to a more secure location to shelter with other lawmakers.
“If you’re wondering what was going through my mind as white supremacists stormed the Capitol with ease, it was this memory of mace burning my skin as I tried to pull a woman away from being beaten by police for standing up for Black lives,” the freshmen congresswoman wrote Thursday on Twitter.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also called out what she thought was a double standard in law enforcement.
“We have witnessed two systems of justice: one that let extremists storm the U.S. Capitol yesterday, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protestors last summer,” Harris said. “It’s simply unacceptable.”
Photos circulated showing the difference between the amount of law enforcement present during the summer protests in Washington with security officials lined up on the Abraham Lincoln memorial, in contrast to the seemingly lax response by officials Wednesday.
Rioters were able to overwhelm Capitol Police and federal officers by climbing up the walls of the Capitol building, breaking through windows and barring doors from being shut by security officials.
Eventually 1,800 National Guardsmen were called into the city by Mayor Muriel Bowser who had previously requested just 340 soldiers earlier in the week. Additional forces were sent from both Virginia and Maryland to assist with the out of control mayhem at the Capitol.
One woman was shot in the chest, and died later at a hospital. But many have taken to social media to ask why the response didn’t mirror the battered images of demonstrators that surfaced over the summer, after peaceful protests turned destructive.
President Trump, who has referred to BLM protestors as “thugs” praised the Wednesday mob as “great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded the police who were undermanned at the Capitol, but still managed to regain control of the situation without extreme violence. Although the senator noted that an investigation would need to be conducted into the “massive failure” of precaution.
“With that said, yesterday represented a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government,” he said in a statement. “A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place and significant changes must follow.”
Video’s surfaced showing officer’s struggling to keep people out, regain control of the building and protect the lawmakers from within the Capitol. But other videos and images also surfaced showing law enforcement taking selfies with the rioters and moving barriers that allowed people to more easily enter the Capitol.
Captiol Police Chief Steven Sund defended the officer’s response but resigned from his position Thursday.
“Once the breach of the Capitol building was inevitable, we prioritized lives over property, leading people to safety,” he said in a statement. “Not one Member of Congress or their staff was injured. Our officers did their jobs. Our leadership did not.”