On Wednesday, Jan. 6, as members of the House and Senate prepared to formally certify the results of the presidential election, thousands of Trump-supporting insurrectionists stormed the Capitol at the behest of President Donald Trump himself. Trump’s supporters, many of whom were white men armed with weapons or equipment to take hostages, vandalized and looted the Capitol, while members of Congress were forced to shelter in place or flee for their lives.
Many — including several members of Congress — have pointed out the double standards in the Capitol police’s use of force directed at white, Trump-supporting domestic terrorists compared to Black and brown racial-justice protesters last summer. Several survivor justice advocates also took to social media to highlight another jarring contrast in police behavior at the Capitol, sharing photos of hundreds of women and survivors who protested Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation to the Supreme Court being handcuffed and arrested for sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations. Other social media users shared footage and photos of Capitol police flipping wheelchair users protesting a vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Let’s be clear: none of this is accidental. Ongoing investigations of the unpreparedness of Capitol police may very well prove incompetence, but nothing can absolve police or our political leaders and institutions broadly of racist, sexist, and ableist double standards in who is permitted to be angry, and even violent, and who is not.
The attack on the Capitol and lack of legal consequences rioters have faced so far are a culmination of years of excusing and sympathizing with the cruelty of white Trump supporters. By 9:30 p.m. on the day of the insurrection, just 52 Trump-supporting rioters had been arrested, in contrast with the hundreds of people arrested and charged in Washington DC while protesting police killings of Black people on June 1, 2020, alone.
Since the 2016 election, we’ve been urged to understand and forgive the often-violent rage and so-called “economic anxiety” of white Trump supporters. And on Jan. 6, we watched Capitol police open the gates for them to storm the Capitol, all after brutalizing untold numbers of racial-justice protesters in recent years and arresting hundreds of women, sexual-assault survivors, and allies who somehow had the grace to protest peacefully at the Capitol in September 2018.
The rage of women and BIPOC is driven by injustice, oppression, and trauma and is punished — while the rage of Neo-Nazis is driven by violent racism and misogyny and is not only enabled but even welcomed by some of the most powerful people in our country, like the president. Still, we’re told by not only our political leaders but often even mainstream media to engage white Trump supporters, who are never called on to extend the same effort to understand and sympathize with BIPOC, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ+ community.
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