Insurrection and White Privilege

Photo by Rosa Pineda, May 2020, DC, Creative Commons license

The biggest threats to the United States come from within: from right-wing terrorists, from white nationalists, from the Proud Boys and Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis among us. These are the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol yesterday, who smashed their way through locked doors, trashed offices, waved Confederate flags, took down the U.S. flag and replaced it with a Trump flag, urinated in a Congressman’s officestole computers with classified information, and left without being arrested, vowing to return another day. After they left, law enforcement found pipe bombs and other weapons. 

Yesterday’s attempt to overthrow the government should surprise no one. This was an insurrection, a violent rebellion against constitutional government.

That’s not just me talking. 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney said, “What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.” Former President George Bush also called it an insurrection, “undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”

Insurrection, or rebellion, is a crime under Title 18 of the US Code. Someone found guilty of insurrection is ineligible to hold office in the United States.

This armed and violent insurrection was planned for months, but ignored by law enforcement. 

Trump spoke to the assembled mob in the morning. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said. “Let the weak ones get out. This is a time for strength.” He called on them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.  

“Let’s have trial by combat!” his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told them. 

The decisions to let this violent and mostly-white mob act with impunity stand in sharp contrast to last summer’s repression and arrests of Black Lives Matter protesters. 

If these thousands of people had been Black Lives Matter protesters instead of right-wing Trumpists, they would have been met with armored police, tear gas, and bullets. 

The Guardian reported that authorities used force on Black Lives Matter demonstrators in at least 392 documented instances last summer, including one in which a journalist was shot in the eye and blinded by a rubber bullet. In other violence during protests, individuals linked to hate groups rammed demonstrators with cars. Thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested, with many released as it became clear they had done nothing or, at worst, violated curfew. 

A study looked at 7,750 Black Lives Matter protests that took place between May 26 and August 22, 2020. The protests took place in 2,400 locations across all 50 states. The study found that 93 percent were peaceful and nonviolent

Even in protests that did not remain peaceful, only a small number of people participated in violence, and property damage was usually limited to a few blocks. In many cases, violence at protests was directed AT the protestors by right-wing counter-protesters and police. 

On June 1, Black Lives Matter protesters in front of the White House were attacked without warning. Law enforcement tear gassed, shot, clubbed, and arrested protesters, breaking up their peaceful demonstration so the president could walk across the street for a photo op holding a borrowed Bible in front of a church. 

Contrast that with the scene in Washington yesterday. Days before the attempted insurrection, top Pentagon officials limited the role of the National Guard, despite requests from the DC mayor for help. During the occupation of the Capitol, at least one police officer took selfies with the insurrectionists. When law enforcement officers finally moved in to clear the Capitol, they held open the doors for smirking terrorists to exit. They arrested only a handful of people

Right-wing extremists—racists, white nationalists,  pose a real threat to the country and, and that has been true for years. Testifying last year, FBI Director Chris Wray told Congress that “racially motivated violent extremists in recent years have been responsible for the most lethal activity.” For years, law enforcement reports have found that white, right-wing terrorists mount more attacks, kill more people, and do more damage than anyone else. 

The contrast between treatment of Black Lives Matter and Trump-supporting terrorists could not be more clear, more racist, or more wrong. 

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