When protest becomes a privilege

Scene at the capitol, January 6, 2021 wikimedia commons

Storming the capitol and the BLM protests had vastly different tones

by hammad ali, contributor

By the time I write this, the United States will have a new president. How good Joe Biden will be in this role still remains to be seen. But most of us would probably admit that, given the track record of his predecessor, the bar has been set pretty low. This is true especially after the events of January 6, when we had to witness Trump supporters march into the Capitol, making no pretenses about their plans to force the U.S. senate to overturn the results of the election and forcibly reinstate Trump. I am not going to try and talk about how this is terrifying, because if a person doesn’t already realize that, they are likely the type who will not agree no matter what I have to say.

Instead, I want to talk about something else. We have seen the photos of a man, one of those who entered the Capitol, with his feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. We have read news reports about how one of the intruders, Jake Angeli, has been provided organic meals while he is in prison for the “minor misdemeanor” of trying to overthrow a democracy. And when I see the sheer deference with which these people are being treated, it takes me back to this past summer.

You remember last summer. When a Black man had a cop kneeling on his neck, only because he allegedly tried to use a counterfeit note? Hopefully you also remember the countless other Black Americans who were attacked for heinous acts like sleeping in their own bed, standing outside their own house, trying to buy a TV, or just – you know – being Black. Time and time again we are reminded that in the U.S.A., if you are a Black person, one of the biggest threats to your life is interaction with law enforcement.

This past summer, we saw police and the national guard in tactical gear, ready to put down the slightest sign of “acting” up on the part of the protesters who wanted an end to police brutality towards people of color. Then, three weeks ago, we saw those same law enforcement officers being positively deferential to “protesters” chanting for the death of the vice president. I read a news report about how Democrat senators were told to remove name tags or anything that would identify them as Democrats, out of fear for these “protesters” and what they might do to Democrat politicians. Before you blow this off as needless sensationalism, let me remind you that these people were literally chanting “hang Mike Pence,” and had zip ties with them for, presumably, tying up abductees.

And yet, the number of shots fired during the entire day of January 6 was less than those fired in one moment, at Breonna Taylor while she was sleeping in her own bed. To be clear, I am not recommending that the cops should have also shot these Trump supporters, who think the will of the majority and the dignity of the office of President is less important than the tantrums of a bully. What I am recommending is that cops also learn not to shoot when the people on the other side are facing the crime of not being white.

I am recommending that the calm, collected manner in which cops spoke to these “protesters,” should also be extended to a Black teenager standing outside his own home. After all, trying to occupy the Capitol and kidnap senators is a crime. Being Black is not. For now though, we will settle for protests against racist police violence to at least get the same treatment criminals who support Trump get from law enforcement.

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