Illustration by Lilian Boyle.
If 2020 and now 2021 have taught us anything, it’s that people will stand up for what they believe in. In a country filled with a deadly pandemic and a divided political spectrum, the right of Americans to protest is definitely a positive aspect of an otherwise crippled nation. However, what is not OK is how the nation, and specifically the police force, have handled and reacted to different people standing up for their beliefs.
In late spring 2020, the nation was taken aback by the disturbing deaths of multiple black men and women as a result of police brutality. This caused an uproar in the nation, bringing national attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. Blacks and whites alike took to the streets to protest the police’s unfair treatment of black Americans specifically, and how systemic racism is still alive and well, even in the 21st century. According to an analysis done by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), more than 93 percent of Black Lives Matter Protests have been peaceful. The ACLED analyzed more than 7,750 protests that occurred throughout the nation and categorized unpeaceful acts as anything from violence to vandalism, and they found that under 250 protests included these acts (Time). Clearly, the Black Lives Matter protests weren’t entirely peaceful, but the majority of them were.
However, the police’s response to even the peaceful protests were extremely gruesome and only more justified the need for the Black Lives Matter movement. On June 1, the government ordered law enforcement to gather in D.C. in case the protests got out of control. Although the protests that day remained entirely peaceful, about 30 minutes before the curfew, law enforcement began releasing tear gas and shooting pepper balls onto the protestors, according to a Jan. 14 report from the Washington Post.
About eight months later, on Jan. 6, all hell broke loose at the United States Capitol in D.C. Even after Joe Biden was announced winner of the 2020 presidential election and all cases of widespread fraud had been disproven, Donald Trump and many of his supporters continued to claim that Trump in fact won the election and that the election itself was rigged. Trump urged his supporters to protest the results of the election, which overall sparked the violence. On Jan. 6, tens of thousands of Trump supporters, holding Trump flags and Confederate Flags (and no masks in sight) stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Rioters began by just banging on the Capitol doors, but the event progressed when a man broke through a Capital window and rioters began entering the building.
My question is, how the hell were rioters able to get into the building? Yes, the rioters overcame a few police guarding the capitol building, but there should have been more protection outside a government building where Congress is in session, especially after all of Trump’s threats. The double standard in this country is beyond disgusting.If the rioters were black, police would have no problem being violent in order to stop them. But, because the people storming the capitol were mostly white men, security was far less harsh. If the police can release tear gas on black people protesting peacefully, why are they all of a sudden nonviolent when people are physically breaking into a government building and putting Congressmen and women at risk?
This double standard only emphasizes the need for the Black Lives Matter movement since police are violent toward black people strictly because of the color of their skin. Yes, police did use some more violent tactics to attempt to stop the white rioters. But, in the grand scheme of things, it is evident that the police were less than willing to use force against the pro Trump protesters, but they would have no problem doing it against blacks. Our country was founded on racist ideas, and despite the progress we’ve made over the years, we clearly still have a long way to go.