As Washington continues to pick up the pieces after Wednesday’s act of domestic carnage on Capitol Hill, some activists are highlighting the stark differences in how police handle unrest.
Halifax-based activist Quentrel Provo says the police response to Wednesday’s events compared to the peaceful demonstrations for racial justice this past summer was night and day.
“Police were using tear gas and rubber bullets, and people were getting shot and killed just for wanting equality,” said Provo.
“It showed the true definition of white privilege.”
The violent siege on the Capitol during the confirmation of president-elect Joe Biden‘s victory left four people dead and resulted in the arrests of at least 52 people. Thousands of people, however, were arrested during the protests that occurred in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
“It’s sad,” Provo said. “We just want to be equal. That’s all we ask. To be seen as equal, to be treated equally.
“The cure is not something special. The cure is in the hands of people of privilege.”
Timothy Bryan, an assistant professor of sociology at Dalhousie University, says though the images that came out of Washington on Wednesday were shocking, they shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“We shouldn’t be surprised because many of those who were a part of the mob that attacked the Capitol building said that they were going to do that,” said Bryan.
“We’ve been trapped, I think, in the last number of years into a cycle to refuse to believe things that have been so plain to us. People have said they’re coming to do this, then it happens, then we’re surprised.”
During the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, protesters were met by police in riot gear and pepper spray, as well as co-operation between National Guard, state and municipal forces. The National Guard did eventually end up showing up at the Capitol, but only hours after it was breached.
“I think what we saw yesterday lays bare what many Black activists and individuals calling for police reform have been noting for decades,” Bryan said. “What we saw there was the intersection of white supremacy with a kind of validation of white grievance politics by law enforcement, and white privilege.”
Both Provo and Bryan say in order to advance the dialogue from where we are today, it’s important to understand the difference between the demonstrations.
“This is not about freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, differences of opinion — this is violence that we’re dealing with,” Bryan said, in regards to Wednesday’s riot.
“Wednesday really showed what privilege was to the world,” said Provo.