The law enforcement reaction to Wednesday’s deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol attracted the attention of those who participated in the protests in Louisville last summer.
They say the relatively ineffectual response of officers in D.C. was a stark contrast to the aggressive tactics used by Louisville Metro Police against protesters demanding racial justice.
Live video and images of the incident showed members of the pro-Trump extremist mob entering Congressional offices and destroying property. The chief of the Washington D.C. police force said officers faced tear gas, and one was beaten and tased. A Capitol police officer shot one woman, who later died.
Despite the property damage and assaults on police, Capitol police arrested only 14 people, and the day ended with more injuries to officers than rioters.
Observers noted a stark contrast in how police prepared for and reacted to Black Lives Matter protesters near the Capitol last summer, when police donned riot gear and deployed tear gas to meet demonstrators. On Wednesday, additional forces didn’t arrive to back up the outmatched Capitol police until after insurrectionists had already broken in.
President-elect Joe Biden, who called those involved in the insurrection “domestic terrorists,” focused on the contrast.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol,” he said in a tweet Thursday. “We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.”
State Rep. Attica Scott of Louisville agreed.
“I couldn’t help but think about how differently the response was for people fighting for justice for Black lives, and how much of a heavy law enforcement response there was to us,” she said.
Scott protested in Louisville last year, at times with her daughter, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, the Black woman killed by police in March.
Scott said she was in a crowd tear-gassed by LMPD without warning, an incident that informed a federal class action lawsuit against the department. Later in the year, Scott was arrested on felony rioting charges as police alleged she was part of a group that vandalized the Louisville Public Library. Video from the night indicated she was not involved. All charges were later dropped.
The disparity in treatment of the D.C. mob and Louisville protesters “was also a stark reminder of the fact that we live in very different worlds in this country,” Scott said.
Critics at all levels have said it’s an example of white privilege.
Scott said it goes beyond white privilege. To her, it demonstrates the historical structure of white supremacy that is built into the founding of America.
She said some white Americans believe they can do anything without repercussions, because their experience has proven that to be true.
“That’s how supremacy works, that you can show up at the Capitol of the United States, destroy property and walk away unharmed, no tear gas, the way in which it was done to us as Black folks, mobilizing for justice,” Scott said.
She emphasized that she did not hope to see anyone treated unjustly or violently by law enforcement. Rather, she said it is clear to her that white people can show up with violence and receive a different response than Black people demonstrating peacefully.
Fixing that will take more than anti-bias training, she said. And she wants those subject to unequal treatment by police, particularly Black women, to be a bigger part of the conversation about how to address white supremacy in policing.