The Reed Report

White Violence, Black Protest, and the Militarized Inauguration

The racial arrest disparity between insurrection vs. George Floyd is not shocking and is more par for the racist course

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images

I intended to use this space to be profound about the police response to last week’s attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol. That won’t happen. As extraordinary as the January 6 insurrection was, the fact that law enforcement responded with disproportionately underwhelming force compared with its response to Black protesters is, well, regular.

Consider:

It’s taken almost two weeks for federal authorities to round up and charge about 100 people in connection with the insurrection. That number will grow, since most of the geniuses who participated whipped out their phones and treated storming the U.S. Capitol like they were making WorldStar videos. Still, most of those charges came after the events on January 6, which means the feds had to spend money tracking these people down, which also means the feds failed to arrest almost anybody while they were all actually at the Capitol begging to be arrested.

CNN’s reporting makes the case starker: D.C. cops arrested 316 people who were protesting George Floyd’s death last June 1. If you don’t remember what you were doing on June 1, it’s because you lost track of time watching the National Guard and D.C. cops violently clear a street so that the president who incited last week’s riot could walk to a religious building he’s never entered and pose for a picture holding a book he’s never read upside down. Cops only arrested 61 people related to protests in D.C. on January 6 — also a day you’ve probably already forgotten what you were doing because you were dumbfounded watching people storm the Capitol without the cops or National Guard or Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Salvation Army, or any well-regulated militia showing up.

Estimates put arrest totals from last summer’s George Floyd protests alone at about 14,000. None of the arrested protesters from those Black Lives Matters events tried to take over a government building while carrying tools of abduction and calling out specific elected officials by name. They just wanted cops to not kneel on a Black man’s neck as he suffocated to death, calling for God and his mother. That didn’t stop cops from deploying rubber bullets or tear gas on peaceful protesters or stop military officials from asking if they could access a weapon that makes your skin feel like it’s on fire. It didn’t prevent individuals from unknown federal agencies from snatching peaceful protesters off the street in unmarked vans.

If those tactics seem unsavory to you, and you don’t want cops or the military using such violence against American citizens, you’re in luck; there’s about as much chance of that happening to any of the Trump insurrectionists as there was of Black Lives Matter protesters getting anywhere near the Capitol unscathed. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in tomorrow and thousands of National Guardsmen have fortified the federalized parts of D.C. in preparation for a new round of potential violence. That’s appropriate. It’s also shameful — and laughably normal — that it took White, insurgent cosplayers seizing the Capitol for the response to get real.

Keith Reed is a writer, commentator & former ESPN the Magazine editor, whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Vibe, Essence, CNN, MSNBC and elsewhere.

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