“Stand back and stand by,” President Trump’s response when asked during a September debate if he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups, came to fruition Wednesday after neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, and other devotees of the Trump cult flocked to Washington for a “Stop the Steal” rally that descended into deadly chaos. Insurrectionists broke through barriers and stormed our nation’s Capitol building, driven by their inability to accept that their candidate lost the 2020 presidential election fair and square. Law enforcement at the event stood idly by, moved the gates to let the rioters in, waved them in, and even directed some to Senator Chuck Schumer’s office once inside.
The unprecedented assault was a stark contrast from protests last summer like the one resulting in a handful of Des Moines Black Lives Matter demonstrators being banned from even setting foot on the grounds of the state Capitol after police disrupted a nonviolent protest, a decision that the ACLU of Iowa later helped overturn. Plenty of BLM protesters here and nationwide have been met with aggression, abuse, and arrests for marching the streets in the name of racial justice whereas the chaos that overtook D.C. seemed like a slow burn until police officers decided to act with force.
A report in USA Today noted this “double standard”:
As thousands of people of color and allies took to the streets this summer to peacefully protest police brutality, law enforcement often clashed with demonstrators, deploying tear gas and rubber bullets, bruising faces and bodies, and pushing an elderly man to the ground.
But as thousands of President Donald Trump supporters, mostly white, marched to the Capitol Wednesday and broke into the building, forcing lawmakers and staff to shelter in place, law enforcement were notably absent.
The largest police union in the United States endorsed Trump, so are we really surprised to see law enforcement posing for selfies with the rioters at the Capitol? In Iowa, Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert has been photographed at a Trump rally. His department’s spokesperson, Paul Parizek, has hinted at his possible support for the president in a tweet he liked of himself smiling from ear-to-ear while working a Trump rally in Iowa. The tweet included the hashtags #MAGA and #Trumptrain. Hundreds of Trump supporters attended a parade in Des Moines to show their support for the president and law enforcement over the summer, carrying signs with slogans like “cops for Trump.” It’s clear the two often go hand-in-hand, as does white supremacy.
“The FBI has long been concerned about the infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacist groups and its impact on police abuse and tolerance of racism,” read a recently unredacted FBI intelligence assessment from 2006. The irony shouldn’t be missed between this disturbing relationship and the images of Wednesday’s pro-Trump mob storming the Capitol while carrying Blues Lives Matter flags, murdering a police officer in the process.
Isn’t this the party that loves law and order? Or has “Blue Lives Matter” always really meant “Blue Lives Only Matter When They’re Killing and Brutalizing Black Lives”?
Black people in America are criminalized and killed for simply existing but white nationalists are able to get away with the level of barbarity on display at the US Capitol Wednesday because they’re sore losers and can’t grasp the concept of normal democracy? This is Amerikkka, a complete embodiment of racism, where white supremacy rules in the face of so-called “law and order.” And what a goddamn slap in the face the leniency shown at this pathetic event was to the Black Americans who have suffered for centuries.
In the words of the Guyanese activist and academic Walter Rodney:
We were told that violence in itself is evil, and that, whatever the cause, it is unjustified morally. By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence of a slave master? By what standards can we equate the violence of Blacks who have been oppressed, suppressed, depressed and repressed for four centuries with the violence of white fascists. Violence aimed at the recovery of human dignity and at equality cannot be judged by the same yardstick as violence aimed at maintenance of discrimination and oppression.
To reiterate for those who are questioning what the difference is between the BLM protests and Wednesday’s deranged coup: BLM is fighting against systemic racism and police brutality, to ensure that Black people are treated with equity in our whitewashed country. The Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol did so because their guy was voted out of office and they’re whining about the results.
Every politician and right-wing talking head who encouraged this type of behavior is complicit. “Hitler was right on one thing,” Illinois Representative Mary Miller, a Republican, said at Wednesday’s pro-Trump rally in Washington, as one especially egregious example. “He said, ‘Whoever has the youth, has the future.’ Our children are being propagandized.” It’s clear why politicians like her win the sympathies of racist extremists.
Cori Bush, whose victory in November makes her the first African-American woman to represent Missouri in the US House, is drafting legislation calling for the removal of congressional colleagues over Wednesday’s deadly riot. “I believe the Republicans members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election must face consequences,” she tweeted. “They have broken their sacred Oath of Office.”
Now, Republicans whose sycophantic support for Trump precipitated the violence are shrinking into their corners, shamelessly pleading that this isn’t who they are. But let’s not forget that when only a small percentage of BLM protests turned violence, the same politicians — like Joni Ernst here in Iowa — demonized the entire movement.
Trump’s cult did exactly what he wanted them to do. To them, apparently, American patriotism is undermining and dismantling democracy. This is full-blown fascism, exactly what antifa — the actual movement, not the fictional boogeyman of the right — has been against and warned about since the outset of the Trump era. Wednesday was a grim day in American history and it must not be forgotten that Trump’s presidency and ideologies have continuously paved the way for his followers to betray their own nation and its values in the guise of partisan politics.