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From her couch in Minneapolis, Newney Nichols watched a crowd of mostly white extremists stage an uprising in Washington, DC Loop on a wooden beam outside the US Capitol and walk the symbol of violence and slavery – the Confederate flag – through the building as it is stormed and attacked.
She was angry, but not surprised by the way the people in the crowd laughed as they took things from the building. There were white extremists who felt comfortable giving their names to the media and taking selfies with a white police officer.
This was in stark contrast to the way law enforcement handled protests over the lives of blacks this summer in Minneapolis, where Nichols demonstrated.
“People who were just there to protest – to make sure our voices were heard – as soon as they approached a building or even a police officer, they immediately tore up the gas and fired rubber bullets,” she recalled. .
Meanwhile, she watched this actual mob, instigated by President Trump, storm the Capitol with little resistance.
“Now the world sees the difference between these two situations, when one of us protests against being seen, being heard, not being killed, right?” She said. “And then you have these other people who are just crazy because they lost.”
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On Wednesday, the president took a different tone than this summer, when he called predominantly peaceful racial justice protesters “thugs”, “agitators” and “robbers”. He tweeted, “When the robbery starts, the shooting starts.” He threatened protesters in front of the White House with “vicious dogs” and “sinister weapons.”
But when the Capitol was stormed on Wednesday, Trump told extremists threatening to execute Democrats and turned to BLM journalists and activists “we love you, you’re very special … but you have to go home.” Before the crowd stormed the Capitol, he had told his supporters to “fight like hell” at the rally. At the end of the day, one person was killed by a police officer and three others were killed. A police officer later died of his injuries. Two pipe bombs were found at the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Political experts and elected officials in Washington have expressed shock that this could happen in the United States. There were frequent cries of “this is not America” or “no one could have foreseen this.”
These allegations set Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson on fire. She and others had been worried for years.
“Those of us who are black, brown, local, AAPI, southern and rural, and who have watched and studied history since the 1800s, know that this is actually very, very possible in America,” she said. “The fact that people do not trust those of us who come from targeted and marginalized communities does not mean that we did not anticipate this all the time. The South says that the supreme authorities of whites in elected positions are dangerous and a subsequent issue. which this country must pay attention to. “
She is a national activist for the Movement for Black Lives and co-executive director of the high-rise social justice center, Highlander Research and Education Center, in eastern Tennessee. He is alarmed when elected officials support or sympathize with white supreme ideals over the past four years. His administration building was set on fire last year as a white symbol of power was scattered on the ground.
“This is not new, “Henderson said.” There are just points that are not related. And so I was disappointed that my friends and I survived in Charlottesville and said that the violent violence of whites was increasing, that we survived and responded. “
But there was a feeling that no one was listening to their warnings. All the while, she said black organizers and activists were being mistreated.
“People like me, blacks who have worked to put this country in a place where we practice our ideals of justice and freedom for all, are defined as extremists of black identity, compared to the same people who are attacking the Capitol,” she said. “I felt frustrated, sympathetic to every focused and marginalized community in this country that was like, ‘God, man, they really treat us differently than they do white people and all the heavy feelings that come with that.’ “
This hypocrisy was not surprising, she said.
“This simply exaggerates the contradictions for me about how the state and the police react to blacks and indigenous people and Latinx and the Asian and Pacific islands when we protest,” she said. “Compared to how they reacted to the weapons of the white super-press who entered the Capitol.”
Kerem Yucel / AFP via Getty Images
Racism and anti-Semitism were exposed on Wednesday, although some in the crowd said they did not join the sentiment. A newly elected West Virginia MP is broadcasting live on the storming of the Capitol while people in Congress are hiding for safety. He was later charged with illegal entry, and dozens of others were also arrested and charged, mainly with illegal entry or breaking the curfew.
For Ashley Howard, a historian and scholar of violent protests and social movements at the University of Iowa, her mind did not jump to protests in the summer to end oppression and injustice. It bounced even higher to the level of American racial relations, a period in American history from the end of the Reconstruction to the beginning of the 20th century, when force was used to maintain the status quo. African Americans experienced a reign of terror: lynching, segregation, Jim Crow’s laws, and increasing white supremacy.
Wednesday’s attack “was a demonstration of force in the service of maintaining a racial and social hierarchy,” she said. “We see people shamelessly, shamelessly, a live broadcast besieging the Capitol … so it shows how power works in our nation, that they do it without remorse, without fear of any retribution.”
Smiling photos of white men armed with bats, shields and chemical spray in the Capitol building made her think about the horrible lynching photos taken in the early 20th century.
“Where the people were [posing] in front of the deceased, smiling, preparing for the camera, and then the authorities will complete the investigation of the lynching and say that it happened in the hands of unknown persons who do not want to name and hold responsible the people who are actually did that, “she said.” The fact that the FBI is essentially crowdsourcing this investigation really reminds me of those earlier moments of terror in our history. “
She, meanwhile, said the FBI used an elite spy plane, the Cessna Citation, to monitor the Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore in 2015, and police used cell phone tracking technology.
In Georgia, Ron Harris watched in horror and anger on Wednesday. The member of the Democratic National Committee organized for the victory of the US Senate, which was overshadowed by the uprising in Washington, DC. The state elected its first blacks and the first Jewish senators in tightly contested contests in which Democrats turned the state by removing blacks and voters.
“Not even having a day to celebrate this, and then turning on the TV and seeing a huge white crowd that was incited by the president to take over the Capitol building, was disappointing because I saw people fighting, arresting, pepper sprayed, tearful, shot with rubber bullets, killed for much less, “he said.
Harris protested in his Minneapolis city last summer. And what he saw in DC, he says, proves what he and other organizers say: that law enforcement is making choices about how to react to people. Black-brown people protesting for social justice are perceived as criminals; a predominantly white mob attacking the Capitol is seen as demonstrators.
“I think people, most of them say, ‘Look, you know how to act when it comes to white people, you know how to understand when someone is white, you know how to stay calm, you know how not to escalate . You know how not to kill, “Harris said.” For whatever reason, knowledge and these abilities and these skills seem to be lost when it’s us, when we’re black and human. “
Hannah Alam contributed to this report.