Was race a factor in the lack of security at the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection?

The contrast between the security preparations in the nation’s capital for Black Lives Matters protests last summer and the mob attack last week reveals a “double standard,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said.

But the difference in the level of security at the two events is more likely due to previous property destruction and a lack of planning by Capitol police, a local police chief said, and not race.

Brown, D-Ohio, and Wright State University sociology professor Jessica Penwell Barnett said race was a factor.

“The U.S. Capitol invasion, insurrection absolutely proved the double standard,” said Brown. “We saw when Black Lives Matter were at the Lincoln Memorial, and nobody works inside the Lincoln Memorial, nobody is there except Abe Lincoln in marble sitting on a chair ... You contrast that with what happened (last) week and it’s pretty clear.”

Five people, including a Capitol police officer, were killed after the mob overpowered law enforcement Wednesday while lawmakers were counting Electoral College votes and forced their way into the building. They ransacked the Capitol building and stole property. By the end of the day, about 60 people were arrested, and many key figures among the group have been arrested the past several days.

In comparison, hundreds of police officers and D.C. National Guard members stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial as Black Lives Matter held a protest in June. The event was part of hundreds of protests across the country after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

Race had nothing to do with how the Black Lives Matter protesters and the mob at the Capitol were treated, said Jeff Kruithoff, Springboro police chief, noting that he has not seeing any evidence. He attributes the minimal security on Wednesday to a lack of planning and the fact that somebody “dropped the ball.”

Some racial justice protests have become violent and lead to fires and property destruction, so that’s probably why there was so much security at that event, Kruithoff said. By contrast, Pro-Trump rallies have been peaceful, he said.

“I would challenge you to find one of the Trump rallies that turned into tearing down statues and destroying property and burning buildings, and all those kinds of things,” the chief said. “Whether that was consciously in somebody’s mind when they decided how they were going to staff the Capitol that day I don’t know..”

Violence has occurred at some Trump rallies, including clashes with counter-protesters. Eight police officers were injured and four people stabbed after Trump supporters held a rally in December to dispute the election results near the White House.

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

Based on the country’s history of racism and violence against people of color, “it’s quite clear that race is the central factor in the different levels of state violence that were brought against the insurgents on Wednesday versus the Black Lives Matter protesters,” Barnett said.

The notion that race did not play a role fails to place both events in the context of American history and social structure, she said. A choice was made not to bring in ample security forces after officials learned in advance of the Trump supporters’ rally, she said, and the “coup attempt” was supported by white supremacists and part of a larger effort to turn over the election results.

“If you look at the states and the places where (voting) irregularities are claimed, there’s a focus on cities where we have a substantial Black electorate,” Barnett said.

The racism and the misinformation that led to Wednesday’s events happened for reasons that include the decline in the nation’s education system, lack of critical thinking skills and a push to discredit science, she said.

The country can move from it’s current state if it reinvests in those institutions and decides collectively where and how it wants to move forward, she said.

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