Capitol Protests: It Helps to Have Friends in High Places

Pro-Trump protestor walking freely inside the U.S. Capitol as police stand by and watch. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

On January 6, while Congress was reviewing the November election results, Trump held a rally and encouraged thousands of his supporters to march on to the Capitol, which they did. They gathered in front of the Capitol building and then gradually pushed forward, pushed aside the barriers, went up the steps and pushed the police out of the way. They entered the building and once inside broke windows, entered the meeting rooms of Congress, chased the police who were inside, and then freely ran around inside the Capitol building. Members of Congress put on gas masks and were escorted out of their chambers and locked up in safer quarters.

And remember, this took place in Washington D.C., the home of frequent large demonstrations, with probably the most experienced police force at crowd control anywhere in the country.

So how did the police get overrun? How did the demonstrators get into the Capitol and shut down Congress? How were thousands of demonstrators able to break the law, break windows, break into Congress, and defy a curfew while there were only 15 arrests by sundown?

The police were not caught by surprise. They were not overwhelmed. This rally had been announced for days. This was only possible with the complicity of federal authorities at the highest levels. As Trump supporters, they were treated with kid gloves, and allowed to do whatever they wanted. The Capitol police acted more like an escort service than a police force.

Just compare this to the kind of violence unleashed by the cops at the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, where protestors were beaten, tear gassed, arrested and even shot and killed by police. Last summer Trump even called in the military against a peaceful protest in Washington, D.C.

For many people watching it seemed like quite a surprising display. But is it? Or is it just in keeping with all the rest of Trump’s antics for the last four years? There is clearly a double standard of so-called justice in Washington DC — one for those who support the president, and a totally different one for those who are demanding real social justice.