President-elect Joseph R. Biden and other Democrats were quick to resurrect the police-racism narrative after the U.S. Capitol riot, drawing a swift rebuke from the right led by prominent Black conservatives.
A day after Wednesday’s siege by a largely white crowd of pro-Trump demonstrators, Mr. Biden all but accused the U.S. Capitol Police of racism, saying that Black Lives Matters protesters would have been treated “very, very differently from the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true, and it’s unacceptable.”
Conservative radio talk-show host Larry Elder agreed that a double standard was at play, although not the one that Mr. Biden suggested.
“You want to play this game about what would have happened had the protesters had been Black? The likelihood is they would have pulled back even more, and the building would have been trashed more,” Mr. Elder said Friday on a podcast.
He cited studies, including three from Washington State University, showing that police are actually less likely to use force against Black suspects, a reverse-racism finding that has been attributed to fears about legal, social and media backlash.
“What happened was horrific enough without somehow playing a thought experiment of what would have happened if the protesters had been mostly Black,” Mr. Elder said.
Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said that no such speculation is necessary, given the lessons from last year’s Black Lives Matter unrest, which saw major U.S. cities beset for months by burning, looting and rioting among protests that typically began peacefully before erupting into violence.
“We don’t need to speculate about how they’d be treated,” Mr. Kirsanow said in an email. “We saw months of rioting, arson, and looting over the summer. Dozens of people killed, billions in property damage, entire neighborhoods wrecked, police stations and other government buildings taken over. Yet in multiple jurisdictions cops were ordered to stand down.”
In Minneapolis, for example, police were ordered by the city to abandon a precinct station, allowing it to be torched by rioters, while in Seattle, protesters were permitted to take over for weeks a six-block “autonomous zone” and declare it off limits to law enforcement.
Derrick Wilburn, head of Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, accused Democrats of reflexively playing the race card with “entirely unnecessary comments impugning the Washington, D.C., police,” adding that “when you’re seeking racism constantly, you’re constantly finding racism, even where none exists.”
Charges of racially biased disparate treatment erupted within hours of the Capitol rioting, spurred by video showing protesters walking through the Rotunda unimpeded and a clip of a rioter sidling up next to an officer and taking a selfie.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said that “we witnessed two systems of justice when we saw one that let extremists storm the United States Capitol, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protesters last summer.”
In fact, police did deploy tear gas in the Senate chambers and outside the Capitol building, where they also used percussion grenades to disperse pro-Trump rioters toward the end of the four-hour siege, The Associated Press reported.
CNN columnist Roxanne Jones said Thursday in a op-ed that “[t]his is what it looks like when toxic White privilege is left unchecked and consistently encouraged by our nation’s leaders,” while NBA star LeBron James cited a June 1 photo of an officer pointing a rubber-bullet gun at or near a Black man with a toddler on his shoulders amid looting in Long Beach, California.
“We’ve all seen that photo. On the contrary, you got this White guy walking inside the Capitol with his thumb up in the air holding a podium in his hand,” the Los Angeles Lakers All-Star told reporters on Thursday. “What more do I need to say to my kids than to see the two differences?”
Clearly police were outnumbered and overwhelmed by the mob that stormed the Capitol after thousands marched from the Save America rally on the Ellipse. Much of the video shows officers struggling to stop rioters from entering and fighting off attacks from the mob.
MSNBC host Joy Reid said Wednesday in a viral monologue that “I guarantee you if that was a Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., there would already be people shackled, arrested or dead,” while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Thursday that if the rioters were Black, “they would have been shot.”
“When White people came into the Capitol, broke into the Capitol and defiled public spaces, they didn’t arrest them,” Ms. Gillibrand, New York Democrat, said on Fox News. “It was as if they were on a Capitol tour. It was not done in the way that was appropriate.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Democrat, said Monday that two Capitol Police were suspended: the officer in the selfie and a second officer who allegedly wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat.