LOS ANGELES — It was shocking enough that a riotous mob stormed the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to be ushered to safety and members of Congress to shelter in place. But it’s equally shocking that rioters who conducted their attack with metal pipes, brandishing firearms, and discharging chemical irritants, resulted in so few arrests.
Just 52 of the thousands of pro-Trump, predominantly white rioters were arrested, 47 of them for violations of Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s 6 p.m. curfew. During a single day of protests over the police killing of George Floyd last summer in the nation’s capital, 289 were arrested, many of them Black.
“This is not eye opening or startling to me. This has been my truth all along,” said Cheryl Dorsey, a former Los Angeles police sergeant and author of Black & Blue, a memoir about her experiences as an African American in law enforcement. “Everyone else seems to be feigning some sort of shock and outrage this can go on when we’ve seen examples occurring time and again where officers are extra aggressive and unnecessarily using force with Black folks.”
Dorsey said the issue long precedes the police killings of George Floyd last May, or Breonna Taylor last March — killings that reignited the civil rights movement with months of anti-racism protests throughout the country that resulted in 14,000 arrests in 49 U.S. cities, according to the Washington Post.
“On the LAPD, there’s a term, ‘stick time.’ That’s the term officers use because they look forward to being able to beat people during protests,” Dorsey said, adding that she didn’t see the officers during Wednesday’s riot with batons, face shields, or the riot gear they often wear when policing Black protesters.
“They were just there, it looks like, to have a good time,” she said, noting video of law enforcement officers removing barriers to allow the rioters onto Congressional grounds. “They’re taking selfies. They had none of the fear they pretend to have when dealing with a Black person, whether it’s a child like Tamir Rice or an adult, when all of the sudden that person is extra hairy and scary. It’s insulting.”
Politicians need to quit clutching their pearls. Ya’ll knew. Police Chiefs & Sheriffs know too. LA County #SheriffAlexVillanueva has 17 known internal gangs on his department: Executioners, Vikings, Regulators. Quit playin’ #blackandblue #sgtdorseyspeaks https://t.co/4KmWOjtlLj— Cheryl Dorsey (@sgtcheryldorsey) January 7, 2021
Such conduct is pervasive and ongoing, said Black Lives Matter L.A. co-founder, Melina Abdullah. Last summer, the LAPD shot rubber bullets at BLM protesters who had gathered near the Grove outdoor mall following George Floyd’s killing, and more than 1,700 protesters were arrested.
In September, following the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department killing of Dijon Kizzee, who was reportedly shot 15 times while riding his bicycle in L.A.’s Westmont neighborhood, BLM protesters were tear-gassed.
One month ago, on Dec. 6, when more than 100 BLM protesters showed up for a nonviolent Sunday brunch in front of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home to block his appointment to President-Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet, “the LAPD brutally attacked,” Abdullah said. “We had three people hospitalized, we had dozens of folks injured, we had a 72-year-old member stomped by the police, so when we think about the difference in treatment, it’s appalling.”
Most recently, on Wednesday, the Instagram account RockMyWorldRocky chronicled a young Black woman walking home from work who was called the N-word and physically attacked by pro-Trump protesters who had assembled in downtown L.A.
Watching rioters storm the Capitol Wednesday, “I was taken aback at the absolutely striking double standard that we saw police not just not do their jobs but actually participate. This was an attempted white supremacist coup.”
That so few people were arrested at the Capitol Wednesday “underscores the point that police absolutely protect and serve white supremacy. What we saw in Washington D.C. was not even treated with seriousness. They knew this was coming weeks if not months before, and it was stoked for sure by the sitting president,” Abdullah said.
BLM supports U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in her call for the president’s impeachment, Abdullah said, even if he only has 13 days left to serve.
“A lot can happen in 13 days. It’s time for Trump to be impeached and removed immediately. He is at the head of these white supremacist attacks.”
BLM is not a reactionary group, Abdullah said, so it is not planning a counter protest to Wednesday’s pro-Trump riots.
“We’re absolutely not going to be fighting white supremacists,” she said. “We know what side we end up on if we have a counter protest. We know what side the state and the police would be on, and how we’d be greeted,” she said, adding that “I haven’t met a Black person yet who feels safer when we see the police around.”
Former chiefs from major metropolitan police departments have condemned the violence at the Capitol, which resulted in four deaths and injuries to 50 U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers.
Former LAPD Chief William Bratton tweeted Wednesday, “There can be no excuse for the mob behavior in Washington D.C. today. None! This is America. This is not an expression of First Amendment rights. It’s #sedition. It’s anarchy plain and simple. This mob clearly is attacking law and order — not supporting it.”
There can be no excuse for the mob behavior in Washington D.C. today. None! This is America. This is not an expression of First Amendment rights. It’s #sedition. It’s anarchy plain and simple. This mob clearly is attacking law and order — not supporting it. pic.twitter.com/ivljDmXVSV— Bill Bratton (@CommissBratton) January 6, 2021
Former Washington D.C. police chief Charles Ramsey told CNN Wednesday the rioters need to be “locked up. Anybody in that building should be face down, in handcuffs as far as I’m concerned.”
Still, trust in law enforcement is, at best, fractious and mostly nonexistent in the Black community, leading BLM members to create workarounds. For its part, BLMLA plans to have a general meeting this Sunday to talk about community solutions to keep each other safe.
Abdullah speaks from experience. Last year, she was swatted by a white supremacist who called the LAPD and said she and her three children were being held hostage. The police came to her house with assault rifles and instructed her at gunpoint to walk toward them, she said.
“When I came out, all of my neighbors were in the street, and one of them put his body in front of mine and refused to allow me to walk by myself. That underscores that building community is essential.”
The larger solution to broken race relations, she said, is having honest conversations about white supremacy, she said. “If we don’t confront it, we can’t topple it.”
“What we’re looking for from a Biden administration is a willingness to confront the white supremacist history and present-day status of the U.S. and be willing to engage in transformational work,” she said. “We want Biden to understand he would not be in office had it not been for Black organizers and Black voters and that he owes us something for our vote.”