Let’s talk: BLM Protests vs the Capitol Riot

February 5, 2021


Creative photograph designed by Eastside photography students.

Then supporters of outgoing-president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, many observers noted that the location was guarded lightly and that the initial security response seemed thin.  Just a half year earlier, the National Guard took to D.C. streets to quell and control peaceful demonstrations for Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. Across the country, officials called out sizable police response at rallies and marches.  Then-President Trump threatened to send troops to some states, such as Oregon, to quell any violence, and false stories of mayhem and destruction swept across social media and conservative websites.  

The contrast between these responses was inescapable, and raised questions and concerns about American values.  Eastside Panther editors Nazareth Perez and Victoria Zaragoza discussed the news and explored what it means to them personally.

Here are excerpts from that conversation, edited for clarity and length.

Victoria: It’s just insane how different the response was with BLM! The protesters couldn’t get close to the Capitol, they couldn’t get close to any government buildings without the police already being stationed there. It was crazy how the police were ready to spray protesters to push them back, and then in comparison to the Capitol (on Jan. 6), there were videos of police officers letting rioters into the Capitol building.


Naz: Honestly, the response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests over the summer that were peaceful — and which other people who were not a part of the movement took advantage of to riot and to loot buildings and businesses — the government still sent the National Guard and the police and they acted very quickly to shut down these protests. They went so far as to tear-gas the protesters, and there were so many violent acts of police brutality during these protests. But during the storming of the Capitol, there was such a different government response to it, that it leaves one shocked.”

Victoria: It baffles me the hypocrisy with this whole thing, because you remember how people were complaining about the damage and the violence during the BLM movements, while most of them were actually peaceful, but violence was incited by the actual police officers who were being violent? And then, compared to [the storming of the Capitol], which was not a protest,it was a riot, and the people were pushing and hurting people — it’s insane to me.

Naz: Have you seen those images of people climbing the walls of the Capitol building?

Victoria: Yes! There was also this one guy, he was sitting in the Capitol and his legs were up on someone’s desk.

Naz: I’m pretty sure it was Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Also, I was hearing on the news that the rioters even took documents! That itself was so disrespectful.

Victoria: There were pictures! There was a video on Twitter where there were people inside the Capitol building, inside the offices and they were taking pictures of documents. The rioters also brought the Confederate flag.

Naz: I wonder how many people were arrested. I’ve heard that there have been over 100 arrests but I’m not sure how accurate that is, there may be more since this is an ongoing investigation. (As of Feb. 5, there have been 189 arrests made in connection with events in D.C. on Jan. 6, according to USA Today.)

Victoria: “[The rioters] should be arrested for what they did, and comparing it to the BLM movement where people were arrested for sometimes literally nothing, too. Arrested just for going and protesting, they were just exercising their First Amendment right to protest, and they got arrested for that.

Naz: This is embarrassing for a country that sometimes says racism isn’t a thing anymore, a country that says all men are created equal, and a country that identifies itself as the “land of the free”. All those rioters, a majority of them white, just stormed the Capitol and none of them got shot at — that is a clear example of “white privilege”. Of course, I have to acknowledge that only one person was shot, and I believe she was an Air Force veteran.

Victoria: Yea, I’m pretty sure, but then again that’s one person.

(Five people in total died as a result of the attack on the Capitol building — one was a police officer, and the other four were rioters. In addition, nearly 200 Capitol and D.C. Metro police officers were injured, as well as dozens of rioters.)

Naz: Meanwhile, at the BLM protests, there were so many horrible acts of police brutality against those who were protesting.

Victoria: I remember this one video of a little girl who went with her family to the BLM movement and a police officer maced her, and it was this little girl, she was young. This happened in Seattle, Washington over the past summer.

Naz: That’s insane and horrible. Now I’m wondering why there was not a quick response to the storming of the Capitol, I feel like I’m not wrong in assuming that the government has the resources to respond and act quickly to attacks like that.

Victoria: Especially with the congressmen and congresswomen who were in the Capitol.

Naz: I read this article that said Trump supporters openly planned their assault on the Capitol online and that the police and the FBI were both warned that there would be an attempt at insurrection — that’s what the article called it — that it was fueled by Trump’s false tweets that he had won the election. Still, they failed to come up with a course of action on Jan. 6.

Victoria: There was no way the storming could have been a sudden thing where a bunch of people randomly decided to go riot, there was no way it could’ve taken them by surprise. All of the tweets Trump was making on his account led to that, and now his account is finally suspended. (Twitter banned Trump’s account on Jan. 8.)

Naz: Thank God.

Victoria: Before that, he posted for the rioters. He told them, “go home, we love you, you’re so special.

Naz: Right, he was so nice to these people who were literally attacking the Capitol, but then for the BLM protesters, he called them thugs, rioters, and looters.

Victoria: It’s funny how everything accumulates, this was all over a period of time.

Naz: Right, talk about generational trauma. There was a lot that happened over the course of four years because of Trump and actions that he’s taken and things that he’s said. Also the way he’s used Twitter to manipulate, it was all just a lot, and it ended up causing a lot of fear. I’m not talking about anything he did or said causing white people fear, it caused the POC of the U.S. fear. I really don’t know what else to say about all this.

Victoria: I feel like you don’t have to make very much commentary on this because everything that happened speaks for itself.

Naz: “This was such a clear sign of how much white privilege can protect people. The government responded to peaceful protests with violence that in turn made these protests violent and left people scared, I mean what happened to these protesters is exactly what they were protesting against, they wanted to put an end to police brutality. Then for the storming of the Capitol there was a clear lack of action that wasn’t missing during the BLM protests.”

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