Systemic Racism Is Not Disputable, and Comparing the BLM Protests to the Capitol Riots is Proof


Demonstrators assemble to protest police brutality

A deadly insurrection at the Capitol and ongoing Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests against racial injustice: both involved large groups of people gathering for a cause with the intent to bring change. However, change means a lot of things and both parties did not have the same idea when it came to the kind of change they wanted to bring about. Both groups of protesters in DC were met with drastically different responses.  The reason for this different response, some may argue, is systemic racism. 


Many can recall the protests that ensued after the murder of a black man named George Floyd at the hands of police officers in May. Following this incident, many people took to the streets to protest against racism and police brutality. Many peaceful protesters and bystanders were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and some protesters were even pushed to the ground. In comparison, on January 6, President Donald Trump sent a mob to storm the Capitol and prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral votes. Unlike at the BLM protests, police were outnumbered by the election protesters. The ratio of police to election protesters is extremely small compared to this summer when thousands of  national guard members awaited peaceful BLM protesters. The pro-Trump rioters were not shoved to the ground, there were no rubber bullets, and tear gas wasn’t used by the police nearly as much. This clear difference in response to the pro-Trump supporters vs. the BLM protesters is bringing to light systemic racism at its core. Questions are now arising as to why an angry mob was allowed to storm the Capitol and walk out without being arrested while peaceful BLM protesters exercising their right to peacefully assemble were being met with violence over the summer. 


As people continue to compare the protests at the Capitol to the ongoing BLM protests, many differences between the two law enforcement responses are now being noticed. Over the summer, BLM protesters took to the streets after multiple incidents of racism came to light. Many of these incidents involved police brutality which was often directed towards people of color. In tweets, Donald Trump referred to these peaceful BLM protesters as, “rioters and looters.”  Although the majority of BLM protesters were peaceful, some protesters did loot and damage property either out of anger or for other reasons that are unknown. That said, the actions of these protesters pale in comparison to the pro-Trump supporters who attempted to stage an insurrection because of the lies they were fed by the President about a fraudulent election. Trump continued these angry tweets, attacking the BLM protesters amidst mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country. However, a final straw for many came when peaceful protesters and media outside the White House were cleared out forcefully by members of the National Guard. As the crowd cleared, President Trump, William Barr, and a few other members of the President’s inner circle emerged, walking across the street to a church. There,  the President stood outside, holding up a Bible as a prop in a photo shoot. The moment was probably one of the most appalling things we’ve seen in all this madness and yet Mr. Trump still hasn’t apologized.  


In stark contrast to his BLM protest reaction, Donald Trump did nothing when rioters began breaking down Capitol doors and windows on January 6th. Even after people called on the President to denounce and end the riots,  it took almost seven hours  before he finally released a video asking rioters to “go home.” However, his video still had very mixed messages that left many people confused and some rioters indifferent as they continued their storm of the Capitol. The underlying message was clear though. Trump had initiated the  Capitol violence but refused to take any responsibility for it, similar to other problems he has caused during his four years in office. Trump  had intended for the  riots to happen all along. He even referred to the rioters as being special, saying, “We love you.” 

Pro-Trump Protesters at the Capitol on January 6

The incident at the Capitol has left more questions than answers. Were the National Guard members called in by the DC mayor as this riot broke out? Why weren’t the law enforcement officers in the Capitol more prepared? It wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out what was about to go down. Simply by looking at the chain of events leading up to the Capitol riots and the tweets of the president in lieu of the election, officials should have sensed a problem and waved a red flag. There are also many speculations surrounding  how things would have been handled if the election rioters had been predominantly black. The sad reality is many of them would’ve probably been badly hurt or even killed. 


There was a clear difference in police reactions to the Capitol rioters versus the BLM protesters.  During the most recent riots at the Capitol, some police stopped to take pictures with protesters while another cop may have been following the crowd of rioters and opening the barricades for them. Sadly, some people are trying to excuse the inaction of some police officers and their handling of the scene at the Capitol. Some people have said that the police were outnumbered, but if so, why weren’t reinforcements called in? The Capitol riots  had been foreshadowed for weeks and yet no one had thought to alert Congress and make preparations. Some people are going as far as to say that after the BLM protests over the summer, police decided to try using less force.  Still, is it a coincidence that the rioters who were treated gently were  predominantly white this time around?  Consistently, there were failures in the way that the Capitol riots were handled, and although police eventually got things under control, the damage had been done. Just  minutes up until the curfew,  rioters lingered around the Capitol.  Despite their lingering presence, they were not cleared out by the police, unlike how BLM protesters were dispersed at least 30 minutes before their curfew.


Although the scene at the Capitol was saddening and gut-wrenching on so many levels, it helped illustrate a divide in this country that has been too long overlooked. The treatment of minorities and people of color in comparison to white people has always been different, but until now it hasn’t been viewed as vividly. How predominantly white rioters and white supremacists who storm the Capitol and threaten our democracy are allowed to go off with a warning while hundreds of peaceful protesters fighting against police brutality are  incarcerated, pushed, sprayed with tear gas, and cleared out forcefully is beyond me. Everything about the difference in reactions is unjust, but it doesn’t mean things like this can’t change. The insurrection at the Capitol shed light on some of the harshest realities in America, including systemic racism, white supremacy, and the dramatic difference between how many police treat people of color versus how they treat white people. That said, these shocking events can also lead to people coming together, acknowledging their faults and differences, and creating positive change to make a better reality. 


All views expressed in this article belong to the journalist and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Ottoson Insider.