January 10, 2021


Capitol insurrection should spark end to America's warped, white supremacist way of policing (Will Bunch, Jan. 10th, 2021, Philadelphia Inquirer)

With the trashed Capitol still reeking of tear gas and lit up by flash-bang grenades, a Chicago police union leader said the quiet part out loud. John Catanzara, FOP chief in the nation's third-largest city, defended the insurrectionists as just "a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way." That more than a dozen of his fellow members of the "thin blue line" had been injured, and that one lay dying, didn't compute for the police union boss (who, of course, backtracked after Sicknick's death). For many white police unionists who've fervently backed Trump since 2016, "Blue lives" may matter but Trump's shared love of white supremacy and his opposition to social protest movements such as Black Lives Matter matters much, much more.

The most powerful testimony about what really happened with policing in Washington on this infamous Wednesday came from two Black officers in the Capitol Police who spoke -- anonymously, which is more than understandable under the heated circumstances -- with BuzzFeed News about what they witnessed. They said their supervisors had failed to speak in advance of the potential danger -- even though insurrectionists had been planning openly on social media for weeks -- and failed to issue vital equipment like gas masks. During the afternoon, they said they were violently assaulted by rioters -- some of whom carried "Blue Lives Matter" flags -- and repeatedly called the N-word, and that several rioters flashed law-enforcement badges at them. "[One guy] pulled out his badge and he said, 'We're doing this for you,'" a Black officer told BuzzFeed. That, and knowing that so many of their white Capitol Police colleagues voted for Trump and the chaos he unleashed, was clearly painful to the officers.

"If you're going to treat a group of demonstrators for Black Lives Matters one way, then you should treat this group the same goddamn way," the second officer told BuzzFeed's Emmanuel Felton. "With this group you were being kind and nice and letting them walk back out."

Clearly, there need to be aggressive investigations both into any actual lawbreaking by police officers on Wednesday but also into the sweeping systemic failures that allowed the previously unthinkable to happen -- a preventable riot which delayed but thankfully did not deter the certification of our presidential election. The biggest unanswered questions:

Were the massive command failures -- the lack of a protective wall around the Capitol like those erected for less volatile situations, the sheer lack of officers, even with so many different units that were nearby and could have assisted, the absence of riot gear that was so prevalent at Black Lives Matter and other social-justice protests -- simply the result of incompetence, or were these inexplicable leadership actions more willful or even diabolical?

It's deeply troubling yet also not surprising that the Pentagon -- loaded with Trump lackeys for the president's final days -- either ignored or slow-walked requests for military aid. Less clear, though, is why the Capitol Police at first turned down outside offers of help. Clearly there was a deep, systemic failure that led top brass not to see often-armed white supremacists as a threat in the way that Black marchers have historically provoked red alerts. The ousting of the sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate and speedy resignation of the head of the Capitol Police is just the tip of this iceberg.

How many of the insurrectionists were off-duty current or recent law-enforcement officers who felt the need to undemocratically install Trump as a protector of police impunity and against a true racial reckoning in America, trumped their sworn oaths to uphold the rule of law. In a stunning report on Sunday, the Washington Post said there's evidence that Wednesday's crowd included two police officers from Seattle -- who posted on social media from inside the Capitol -- as well as one from Zelienople, Pa., near Pittsburgh; the police chief of Troy, N.H., and a sheriff's deputy from Texas ... so far.

Were any Capitol Police actively engaged in helping Wednesday's rioters, and did any of those actions rise to the level of a crime? "The lack of security at the Capitol is not an accident," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington state Democrat, said in the aftermath. "It is very clear to me that there were breaches of our law enforcement agencies. The fact that there were no barriers, that they were essentially allowed in. And again, the discrepancy of what would have happened if these had been peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. ... Believe me, they would not have been anywhere near that building. And there would have been a lot of arrests."

She's not kidding. Mother Jones documented some 35 times during the Trump years when more demonstrators were arrested than the paltry 13 rioters taken into custody by Capitol Police while the actual insurrection was underway -- disability activists literally dragged from their wheelchairs, Jewish rabbis and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who last week became the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the Deep South, even Ben and Jerry. The bulk of these arrested were supporting progressive social-justice causes antithetical to the white supremacy that corrupts American policing.

Posted by at January 10, 2021 5:11 PM