Watching the chaotic events at the U.S. Capitol unfold on Jan. 6, 2021, it felt as though the nation reached a standstill when Pro-Trump rioters invaded the building at the very heart of our democracy to protest of November’s election results.
What pained me the most wasn’t just that such violent and lawless acts had taken place but rather that they'd been allowed to take place, as photos, videos and written reports began circulating that documented police at the scene and their response (or the lack thereof) in controlling the crowd.
Interestingly enough, tear gas and rubber bullets were nowhere to be found among the sea of predominantly white extremists. Watching this unfold sparked somewhat of a revelation in me: I was taken aback, but I wasn’t anywhere near surprised.
Still, while not a surprise, this has been one of the most outrageous and unmistakable displays of racism and racial bias in the U.S. justice system since Jim Crow.
The vast majority of Black Lives Matter protests following the police murders of Black men and women like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have been met with violent police interference. Throughout the summer of 2020, news and social media headlines filled with reports of peaceful protesters being teargassed, shot with rubber bullets and overall subjected to senseless violence.
Notably, a peaceful BLM protest in Washington D.C.'s Lafayette Square was met with excessive force to clear the way for President Trump's biblical photo op outside of St. John’s Church.
A few months later, violent looting of the Capitol building was left largely unchecked, putting the lives of Congress members and staffers in immediate danger.
It seems counterintuitive that people advocating for equality should be so relentlessly silenced, while those promoting discrimination and hate — such as rioters wearing various white supremacist symbols coupled with combat gear — are allowed to completely bypass the security system of a federal building.
It would be a gross abuse of power for the police to exert unnecessary or lethal force on civilians, but the choice to stand by and allow destruction has the same effect: perpetuating the idea that law enforcement operates as or above the law itself.
Besides, choosing to let such chaos ensue is a bit ironic for a country that spends around $100 billion on policing each year.
This overt racial bias is inexcusable, yet it remains an institution in the U.S. still today. Marches for basic human and civil rights are met with harsh police attacks, but domestic terrorists posing a threat to our democracy get a comparatively lenient slap on the wrist or even direct encouragement from officials.
Law enforcement plays a crucial role in perpetuating racial tensions in the U.S., with innumerable Black people and other minorities being murdered and/or brutalized at the hands of police officers each year.
Therefore, the implications of police picking and choosing when and where to respond — and the drastic differences in their control tactics — decidedly points to a foundation of white supremacy in this country.
In the aftermath of these horrific events, it’s time to demand that not only the civilian participants of the raid be punished to the full extent of the law, but the officers who stood idly by as well. Their hand in this unprecedented breach presents just as much, if not more, of a threat to our democracy, freedom of expression and fight for racial equality.
Emily Davison is a 19-year-old anthropology sophomore from Denham Springs.