After watching the pro-Trump extremists storm the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, with little to no resistance from police, local activists are calling out the double standards between that mob and the Black Lives Matter protestors who were often met with tear gas and arrests.
“It was the highest display of white entitlement,” said Jamil Davis, the north Florida organizer for Black Voters Matter. “I watched the mob storm a place that seven months ago was filled with National Guard. I watched someone take a selfie with a U.S. Capitol police officer. And (people) wonder why we call for the divestment of funds from police?”
Lawmakers who were on lockdown for hours in the U.S. Capitol building have questioned the preparedness, or lack thereof, from security officials, and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned. Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress did not mince words when they blamed President Donald Trump for inciting the violence. But Davis said disparities between the pro-Trump mob and Black Lives Matter go deeper than the past four years.
“To quote activist Kimberly Jones, it’s like we’re playing a 400-year game of Monopoly,” he said. “Anytime (Black people) get to a good place on the board, white supremacy rears its ugly head.”
Davis points to the years of Reconstruction after the Emancipation Proclamation, which were only met with the Jim Crow era of racial inequality. And in modern times, Barack Obama’s historical presidential legacy followed by Donald Trump winning the 2016 election with a campaign full of racially charged language against Black and brown people.
With years of organizing experience, Davis said a successful protest is one that doesn’t end in lives lost. Even as some Black Lives Matter protests resulted in riots and looting, he said he hopes no protests ever results in that, but he understands why it escalates.
“During the month of January, conservatives and moderates love to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “Here’s the only one I want to give: ‘A riot is the language of the unheard.’ When Black lives are pushed, they’re going to fight their way out of a corner.”
But Wednesday’s riot was not one of frustrated oppression, Davis said.
“Let’s be perfectly honest, (yesterday) wasn’t a protest,” said Davis. “That was a temper tantrum … 80 million people did not vote for their candidate. For the last four years, we’ve seen it brewing.”
Local activist and DJ Haley Morrissette took to social media Wednesday sharing a photo of one of the extremists inside the Capitol with the caption “We live in a Parks and Rec episode that won’t end.”
“It was definitely a laugh-to-keep-from-crying situation,” she said.
Watching Wednesday’s events play out, she said she was “in awe and disappointed,” but not surprised by the response.
Morrissette and Davis were both leaders in the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests at the Graffiti Bridge. Even though the protests were largely without incident, Morrissette said she faced backlash from people online who called her a terrorist. And she said she fears that yesterday’s riot at the Capitol will be used against Black and brown people who have peacefully exercised their First Amendment right.
In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out his proposed “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” that would give new criminal offenses to people involved in a protest that involves property damage or injury to others or obstructing roadways among other provisions and includes a “No ‘Defund the Police’ Permitted” measure that prohibits state grants or aid to any local government that cuts the budget for law enforcement.
Today I announced bold legislation that creates new criminal offenses and increases penalties for those who target law enforcement and participate in violent or disorderly assemblies. We will always stand with our men and women in uniform who keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/ITl5GmmrZJ
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 21, 2020
Morrissette said she’s concerned by the language in the proposed law, but not deterred from standing up for what she believes is right.
“I’m afraid of organizing and not being able to come home to my kids,” she said.
After the Capitol riot, the proposed law has gained more steam, but as Davis points out, the law was written in response to Black Lives Matter protests.
“We all know who this bill is directed to,” he said.