The co-founder of Black Lives Matter in Canada said she believes police would have responded more aggressively if protesters storming the U.S. Capitol had been members of the anti-racism group instead of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I want to be very clear that if those were Black Lives Matter protesters I think that would have been a massacre,” Sandy Hudson told CBC News. “I think that we would all be dead.”
Hudson said she spoke Wednesday with other members of BLM — who were on the ground in Washington D.C. and watched rioters descend on Capitol Hill — who believe security officials exhibited uncharacteristic restraint against the people who stormed into the complex.
Other activists — many of whom participated in anti-racism protests last summer — were also struck by the police restraint. They said they witnessed scenes at recent protests where law enforcement acted far more harshly with demonstrators.
Indeed, a number of social media users — many Black or people of colour —decried what they saw as a double standard when it comes to police responding to protests involving Black social justice activists and white pro-Trump supporters.
“I witnessed some extraordinary, horrific events at the U.S. Capitol today and can only imagine how the outcome would’ve been different if the perpetrators looked like me,” tweeted Michael Brice-Saddler, a Black reporter who covers D.C. politics for The Washington Post.
WATCH | Pro-Trump mob storms U.S. Capitol:
Following a rally, which Trump hosted before the joint session of Congress, the U.S. president’s supporters marched to the Capitol and eventually forced their way into the building, sending lawmakers and their staff into hiding and the building into lockdown.
The U.S.-based BLM organization said the police response to those protesters illustrate stark differences in how law enforcement treats white and Black demonstrators.
“When Black people protest for our lives, we are met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, tear gas and battle helmets,” the U.S.-based BLM organization tweeted out.
‘Act powerless to intervene’
“When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene.”
Ibram X. Kendi, American author and anti-racist activist quoted his 69-year-old mother in a tweet: “First thing she said: “If these people would have been Black, then they ALL would be dead.”
“The same reason why the police routinely kill Black people is the same reason why the police are routinely unprepared for White domestic terrorists,” Kendi tweeted.
Cecillia Wang, a civil rights lawyer and deputy legal director of the National American Civil Liberties Union, also accused law enforcement of using disproportionate force in the Capitol Hill riot.
“A lone Black U.S. Capitol Police officer trying to hold back an armed right-wing invasion of the Capitol that has been fomented by the president of the USA. Compare to the 100s of militarized police mobilized against peaceful protestors for Black lives. Our country. Our country.”
Capitol Hill security officials did clash with some rioters outside of the complex as they broke through the barricades. Tear gas cannisters were shot inside and outside the building. Meanwhile, Washington D.C. police said at least one woman was shot inside the Capitol and died later at an area hospital. Another three people also died in what police described as medical emergencies.
But Hudson noted that there are also images of security officials taking selfies with some of the protesters inside Capitol Hill.
Cops are taking selfies with the terrorists. <a href=”https://t.co/EjkQ83h1p2″>pic.twitter.com/EjkQ83h1p2</a>
Hudson said she’s been peacefully protesting for a good part of her life.
“And I have never ever seen police respond at a protest for racial justice like that with that type of calm.”
Derrick Johnson, president of the national NAACP told USA Today that when Black people were protesting peacefully against police brutality and systemic racism across U.S. cities last summer, “they were tear-gassed, they were arrested, they were shot with rubber bullets. They were shot with real bullets.
WATCH/Black Voters Matter Cliff Matter talks about differences in police responses to protests
“We watched it take place all summer long when people were peacefully demonstrating.”
Gregory McKelvey, 27, of Portland, Ore., told the Washington Post that he was among dozens of people who were tear-gassed and beaten by federal officers as they stood this summer in a park close to a federal courthouse in his hometown protesting the choking death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
“We never once tried to get into the federal building,” McKelvey told the paper. “We faced off with people who looked like troops. They were dressed for war. They were in armoured vehicles. And today I’m watching bike cops riding up.”
A study by the U.S. based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that of the more than 7,750 BLM protests across the country last summer, 93 per cent were peaceful.
Critics of the Capitol Hill police response also made reference to an incident in June, when police and National Guard soldiers aggressively forced back hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, where they were chanting against police brutality and the Minneapolis death of George Floyd.
Police had cleared the area to make way for a Trump photo op, where he could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible.
Hudson said she believes police showed restraint against the Capitol Hill rioters, in part, because there are elements of the police that support the message of the protesters.
“There’s a lot of support in police ranks for Trump because he has, in the face of police acting unlawfully toward Black people, pledged his full unmitigated, uncritical support for the way that police engage with Black people,” she said.