Black Americans continue to process what they witnessed this past week when a violent mob of President Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, leaving a police officer and four rioters dead.
The deadly riot on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., laid bare — yet again — the everyday reality of African Americans and people of color: Police use more aggressive tactics against them than against whites, said YahNé Ndgo, a Black Lives Matter Philly core organizer.
Police put up little resistance to the largely white insurrectionists clad in "Make America Great Again" gear, but last year law enforcement used heavy-handed tactics and made mass arrests during Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, Philadelphia and across the country.
“It triggered the trauma of our previous experiences in how we were dealt with by police during our cause for justice in comparison to their act of insurrection,” said Ndgo, who was among the organizers of last year’s protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, planned to address the seditious action during his church services on Sunday. The mob was the culmination of people enabling the president’s worst tendencies and behaviors, he said.
“For those persons who stood by him and enabled him: This is called the harvest,” Tyler said. “You reap what you sow.”
The pro-Trump rioters remained inside the Capitol for hours, ransacking the offices of elected officials, taking selfies on the House and Senate floors, and delaying the certification of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ victory in the 2020 election. Congress later reconvened and certified the election results.
Police arrested dozens involved in the Capitol breach but permitted hundreds of others to walk free.
Ndgo believed police would have used deadly force if African Americans or those supporting Black causes had broke into the Capitol.
“That would have shocked me: If they shot up those white people the way that I know they would have shot up Black people … if they would have arrested the way that they absolutely would have arrested a bunch of Black people,” Ndgo said.
Tyler said the soft treatment of the white protests by police was not a surprise to African Americans.
“The only people who were surprised by this are people who are not Black,” Tyler said. “The fact that there’s a double standard — I don’t have to explain this to my people because we know this to be true. … Black people get hard time; white people get treatment.”
The fallout from the riot continues. Trump Cabinet members have resigned in protest. The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives is threatening to impeach the president again unless he resigns or Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Tyler said he hoped that Wednesday's events would spark a reckoning over disparities in police tactics, similar to the protests that Floyd’s killing ignited over systemic racism and police brutality.
Ndgo said the attack on the Capitol could result in more equitable treatment for African Americans, indigenous people and other people of color.
“The more people’s eyes are open, the more people’s patience is decreased with their willingness to accept what’s been happening for these generations, the more we can succeed in creating a world that is actually good for all of us and not just a small portion of us,” Ndgo said.