Skip to main content

Bankole Thompson: Examine racial disparities in Capitol riot response


The Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s capital is a dark chapter in American history, and it should be viewed as such. No one should explain it away or make light of it for political convenience.

A bill to form a commission to examine events around the insurrection failed in Congress. It’s the result of a campaign led by Republican leadership, who have refused to look closely into what happened during former president Donald Trump’s last days in office.

But the bipartisan Senate report that came out this week on the intelligence failures of the nation’s law enforcement apparatus leading up to the insurrection revives memories of a White mob storming Congress to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results as Capitol Police stood helpless.

Some of the key findings in the report:

► The federal intelligence community — including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the United States Capitol Police — did not warn of potential violence and failed to convey the full scope of threat ahead of Jan. 6;

► Capitol Police were not adequately prepared to prevent or respond to security threats, which contributed to the breach of the Capitol;

► Opaque processes and a lack of emergency authority delayed requests for National Guard assistance;

► As the attack unfolded, the Department of Defense required time to approve the request and gather, equip and instruct its personnel on the mission, which resulted in additional delays.

Congress is supposed to act on matters of public safety. Michigan’s own U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, did just that with this report.

Anyone who has been closely following the coverage of the insurrection would have come to the same conclusions as the report. What is needed now is a follow-up report on the role that race played in the treatment of the insurrectionists compared to Black Lives Matters demonstrators protesting just months earlier.

Why did some law enforcement officials present during the takeover of the Capitol building seem welcoming to the insurrectionists, while Black Lives Matter protesters were greeted with a heavy military presence on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when they came to the National Mall last June?  

It was reported police made more immediaarrests of Black people who demonstrated after the death of George Floyd than those who showed up to siege the Capitol, even taking over offices of members of Congress. This disparity in arrests must be the focus of a congressional hearing, and leaders in both chambers should highlight the need to reform our criminal justice system.

The January insurrection cannot be examined outside the obvious racial disparity displayed that day. Given that members of the National Guard showed up in full gear at the Lincoln Memorial for Black protesters, it’s likely the law enforcement response would have been totally different had those same demonstrators laid siege to congressional buildings.

When Black people show up to protest there’s almost always a coordinated response from authorities. The response to Jan. 6 shouldn’t have been different, and Congress owes the people answers for what seems to be two sets of rules in law enforcement: one for Capitol insurrectionists, and another for Black Lives Matters protesters.

bankole@bankolethompson.com

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM.