Op-Ed: Selfie versus shooting: Double-standards emerge surrounding police response at Capitol Hill storming


Photo credit: Clay Banks from Unsplash.com, licensed for reuse

On June 6, 2020, men stand in unity at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C.

By Vaughan Anoa'i and Nyah Fernandez

Well, so much for a new year and a fresh start. Barely a week into 2021, a truly despicable act took place that would change the course of history and presidential elections to come. On Jan. 6 at approximately 2:30 p.m., an unforgettable moment in history occurred. The dark cloud of white supremacy loomed over not only the Capitol Hill building but the rest of America as well. As Nyah and I sat in class attempting to stay alert, our phones began to light up and vibrate as news outlets and social media platforms began posting graphic videos and photos of what was going on. Our first instinct as student-journalists was to gather as much information as possible to ensure that our coverage was accurate and informative for the community.

As we rushed to contact one another via GroupMe and read as many articles as we could, we forgot to first sit back and recognize what was unfolding before our eyes. Still, in a state of confusion, we looked to the police enforcement who had arrived at the Capitol and were eager to see what they were doing to defend the very heart of our nation.

But, something looked different.

There was no shooting or rubber bullets fired.

There was no water hose.

There was no fighting or confrontation between the rioters and policemen during the first half of the protest.

And there were no tanks until the latter half of the riot when the damage had already been done.

But, we did see police officers escorting the protestors into the Capitol.

Yes, you read that right. This mob was welcomed with open arms into what is considered one of the most sacred buildings in the entire United States.

We also saw a woman being graciously escorted down the stairs.

And worst of all, we saw police officers taking selfies with the rioters, before they proceeded to rush even further into the Capitol to loot, steal, and vandalize.

In times of chaos like this, we expect police enforcement to honor their civic duty and take all necessary steps to ensure that everyone is kept safe, and also that a monumental building such as the Capitol is secure as well. So, in this case, we were in utter shock to see the drastic difference in police response at this so-called “protest” in comparison to the way Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors were treated as they fought for justice.

Following the tragic death of George Floyd, protestors took to the streets to stand up and demand an end to police brutality and racial prejudice. In response to the peaceful protestors, police officers chose to violently confront them, regardless of the fact that these people were not storming or breaking into a federal building. As a result of their actions, BLM protestors were sprayed with tear gas, shot with rubber bullets, threatened with a military tank and physically assaulted by the police officers present.

Why did police enforcement feel the need to use excessive force when dealing with primarily protestors of color over the summer and not with a majority of white rioters this past month?

As people of color, Nyah and I felt extremely frustrated and disappointed to see the apparent hypocrisy that occurred at the Capitol. White supremacy along with white privilege continues to be an issue in today’s society. Black and other people of color protesters aren’t even allowed to peacefully protest basic human rights while a Pro-Trump mob can violently fight against baseless claims of a “stolen election” while most did not face any sort of consequences or repercussions.

According to Ernest Coverson of Amnesty International, “The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest.”

The corrupt and racist police system has been exposed yet another time, as the double-standards and deceit continues to divide our country even further apart and bring us back to a time where Black people were treated as animals or objects for labor.

As student journalists and, most importantly, as people of color, it is our civic duty to not only inform the community, but also point out the inequities and flaws that our justice system continues to perpetuate. There must be a change soon. The actions displayed by police on Jan. 6 were disgusting, and we hope that law enforcement will do better for the sake of future generations to come.

So we ask all police officers everywhere, do our lives truly even matter to you? How can we live our lives to the fullest potential if the fear of police brutality and racism continues to hold us back and limits change for the future? And, finally, for the mob of rioters who wreaked havoc earlier this month, since you didn’t hesitate to use violence against Capitol police, we suppose blue lives only matter when they are taking the lives of innocent Black people.