The riot at the U.S.Capitol on Tuesday (Jan. 6), is having repercussions not only in Washington D.C., but all across the country. Juxtapositions are being drawn between how police reacted to the mostly white insurrectionists compared to how those who participated in the massive demonstrations last year were treated.
Many African Americans are outraged because of the ironic response by law enforcement to the mainly white males causing chaos goaded by President Donald Trump. Compare that to the public bashing given to city mayors by Trump over the unrest during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Black mayors now have more reason to reject the notion that they refused to control the turmoil, as Trump had insisted, when there is the current example of his own supporters bursting into the Capitol in an attempt to halt a legitimate election from being confirmed.
“They were aiding him,” said Newport News, Va., Mayor McKinley Price, DDS, who is president of the African American Mayors Association. “And that’s the problem. There are two different kinds of security forces, two different kinds of ways of applying force when things that are going to benefit him happen and things that are going to be perceived to help cities, mostly cities of color.”
As demonstrations in response to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other deaths of Black people at police hands became more intense, the largely peaceful protests did include some looting and violence. Citing cities like Portland, Chicago and others, Trump immediately called for law and order. He also threatened to send in federal forces to quell the trouble and in August went as far as calling Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler a “fool.”
“Mayors across this country were threatened,” said Price. “ ‘If you don’t stop the peaceful protests that are going on or the disruption to your city, I’m going to send in the National Guard,’ right? Didn’t we hear that?
“Now you have a force, people who have historically come to cities and disrupted, knowing that he was saying what [they] were going to do for two weeks,” he continued. “You have to have in your mind somebody gave an order to not have enough security or to relax security.”
Price said that while he does not want to contribute to the proliferation of conspiracy theories, there are images and video of rioters taking selfies with the U.S. Capitol police that have aroused suspicions that security forces were uncharacteristically lax, maybe even complicit. Regardless, one woman was shot and killed, reportedly by a Capitol police officer.
It’s ironic that Trump had the gall to attack the mayors of America’s big cities under the guise of protecting law and order but then encouraged lawlessness in one of the most recognized American federal buildings in the world. The duality is also not lost on Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is also first vice president of the African American Mayors Association. He said the President’s words last summer specifically targeted the big cities and politicians he was opposed to.
“He was specifically focusing on Democratic mayors and he was specifically focusing on urban cities,” said Turner. “And he talked about how he was the person for ‘law and order’ for all these peaceful protestors and that they were a disgrace and all these cities had to do was turn it over to him.
“Well yesterday, we saw where he stands because yesterday was the epitome of lawlessness,” Turner said. “There was no law and order. In fact, there were people, thousands of them, who broke the law and the president and others stood by and initiated it and then they sought cover from it.”
Price said that he and a group of other mayors communicated with Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser through a text stream Wednesday evening. In a news conference on Thursday, Bowser mentioned some of the same frustrations other city leaders have experienced who have been criticized by Trump regarding the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“We must also understand why the federal law enforcement response was much stronger at the protests over the summer than during yesterday’s attack on Congress,” said Bowser, who called on Congress to put together a commission to understand the security failures at the Capitol building.
Price believes that Trump was not the only one complicit in spurring the violence, and that other legislators should be blamed for fanning the flames. “I think we make a mistake if we just focus on President Trump,” he said. “It was those who enabled him, those within his own party for years and certainly in the last several months…who called many of the protesters last summer ‘thugs,’ and talked about how they were going to stand for ‘law and order.’
“It’s not just President Trump. It’s also those around him in high positions, elected positions and others who embraced and supported his views,” Price said.