How the gaga MAGA protesters dodged arrest at the Capitol

Casey Braff

On Jan. 6, 2021, the sound of my chemistry teacher’s voice droned in the background as I frantically searched “Capitol break-in” on my phone. News articles showed people in “Make America Great Again” gear break into the United States Capitol, overwhelm Capitol police and breach the Senate chambers. This breach was a result of a speech by then-President Donald Trump where he called the 2020 election an “egregious assault on our democracy” and prompted his supporters to walk down to the Capitol in a “Save America March.” 88 percent of Redwood students agree that Trump is somewhat or fully responsible for the Capitol insurrection, according to a Bark survey. 

In the following days, videos came out of police officers letting protesters through the fences and even an officer taking a selfie with a protester. As demonstrated through this event, the protesters were allowed to breach the Capitol and now face little consequences simply because they are Trump supporters. Right-wing protesters are treated far better than left-wing protesters by police, a fatal flaw in our police force that was revealed during the Capitol insurrection. 

Illustration by Kalyn Dawes

This summer, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters took to Washington D.C.’s streets, protesting the murders of unarmed Black Americans by police. In the same city seven months later, Trump supporters protested his loss of a fair election. There is a stark dissimilarity in the police response to these events. On June 1, 2020, BLM protesters peacefully protested in Washington D.C. and were met with 6,000 law enforcement officers. Despite the peaceful nature of the march, 300 people were arrested. 

In contrast, on Jan. 6, 2021, the Capitol was breached by a crowd of Trump supporters, hundreds of them armed, and only 82 people were arrested by the 2,300 Capitol police officers. On the night of the Capitol riot, President Joe Biden spoke on the unequal treatment, saying, “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter [protesters] protesting yesterday, they would have been treated very, very different than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true, and it’s unacceptable.”

 The First Amendment gives all Americans the right to protest if they aren’t on private property without permission and remain non-violent. The issue is not that the Capitol protesters should be met with the same force as the BLM protesters, but that BLM and peaceful protestors shouldn’t be met with excessive violence.  The difference in treatment of right-wing versus left-wing protesters by police is nothing new. A 2020 study by Leslie Wood, a professor at York University, found that left-wing protesters are arrested 10 times more than right-wing protesters. According to Wood, “…Police in Georgia arrested anti-fascists rather than neo-Nazis, and across the country arrested anti-racists and Trump opponents rather than Islamaphobes [sic] and Trump supporters.” Neo-Nazis should not be treated better than anti-racists. What was displayed during the Capitol insurrection reflects a greater disparity in the police force. Once again, the police are failing Americans. 

It cannot be ignored that the Capitol police force of 2,300 was not prepared to fend off thousands of angry and armed people. Some attribute the Capitol’s failure to the lack of law enforcement officers requested by the Capitol police force. Perhaps the police force was unaware the protest was such a threat, and no one could have predicted the protesters breaking into the Capitol building. However, it was their job to have prepared for the worst. There were plenty of signs that the protesters had no peaceful intentions. On Dec. 12, the website encouraged a violent reaction if the Senate certified President Joe Biden’s win. One site user wrote, “If this does not change, then I advocate Revolution and adherence to the rules of war. I say, take the hill or die trying.”
Washington’s attorney general, Karl Racine spoke on the lack of preparation on CNN on Jan. 6, saying, “There was zero intelligence that the Black Lives Matter protesters were going to ‘storm the capitol,’ juxtapose that with what we saw today, with hate groups, militia and other groups that have no respect for the rule of law go into the Capitol…That dichotomy is shocking.” The police force unacceptably and blatantly ignored a serious threat to national security, and as a result, lives were lost. 

It seems unlikely that anything similar to the event on Jan. 6 could happen again, but the inconsistent treatment of protesters will not stop anytime soon. Police across America need to be held accountable and all peaceful protestors should be met with equally peaceful police, no matter their political beliefs. In an era of proposed police reform, real change needs to happen to prevent more unbelievable tragedies like the one we saw at the Capitol.