The Policing Paradox

January 6th, 2021 is a date that will live in infamy, but not for any reason that most of us will care to admit. We all know the story; a large group of protestors marched to the United States Capitol building to express their disapproval of the election results. Things took a turn for the worse, as the group assaulted capitol police officers and eventually ended up breaking into the building, where the electoral votes were being counted and validated by members of congress, and proceeded to vandalize and destroy government property, and threaten the lives of representatives. But this article isn’t about them or even what they did that day, it’s about how they were treated during the fallout. We all saw the videos; large groups of the would-be insurgents walking freely out of the Capitol building with smiles on their faces and celebrating what, in their minds, was a victory. Most of those people left free and unharmed. 

Over the past year I’ve been a member of my day job’s Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) Board, a goal of mine since I learned it existed. One of the opportunities I jumped at when I joined the board was the chance to contribute to the ESJ newsletter. When one of the ideas floated for the next newsletter was comparing the police reaction to last summer’s BLM protests versus how the January 6 insurrection was handled, I was all over it! This is something I’ve been following since it began, I was active in the protests both in person and online. My disgust and anger led me to consume every disgusting news story about cops beating the everloving daylights out of normal people, with no accountability. I watched my friends be assaulted, I was assaulted. So, in typical Nick Radford fashion, I figure “why write something if I can’t share it with the larger world?” So I took the short little snippet I wrote for work and expanded it into the blog you see before you. If you’ve really been paying attention, a lot of what you’re about to read won’t be new information, but it feels good to vent and you just might learn something new. 

Anyway, CW: mentions of police violence to follow!!

January 6th, 2021 is a date that will live in infamy, but not for any reason that most of us will care to admit. We all know the story; a large group of protestors marched to the United States Capitol building to express their disapproval of the election results. Things took a turn for the worse, as the group assaulted capitol police officers and eventually ended up breaking into the building, where the electoral votes were being counted and validated by members of congress, and proceeded to vandalize and destroy government property, and threaten the lives of representatives. But this article isn’t about them or even what they did that day, it’s about how they were treated during the fallout. We all saw the videos; large groups of the would-be insurgents walking freely out of the Capitol building with smiles on their faces and celebrating what, in their minds, was a victory. Most of those people left free and unharmed. 

Now flashback even further to the weeks and months following May 25th, 2020. George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis, MN police officer, and as more and more videos and details come out George Floyd’s murder, the nation cries for substantive change. Protests broke out all over the country while more and more videos of police brutality against protestors flooded the internet. In Buffalo, NY, a cop shoved an elderly man to the ground, cracking his skull, and other officers were stopped by their peers when they attempted to administer aid. Police vehicles drove into crowds of protestors. Seattle and Portland police became famous for their liberal use of pepper spray, tear gas, and physical violence with batons and bicycles, as your author can attest (my friends and I were assaulted by SPD, unprovoked, on May 30th, the first day of George Floyd protests in Seattle, and numerous times in the following months). 

I could go on and on, listing the numerous instances of unreasonable police violence in response to peaceful protests across the country. There have been countless instances and I have been unable to find a single case where an officer was held accountable for brutalizing people, running people over, etc. 

This is a heavy topic, so here’s a Poutine pic to lighten the mood.

Only one instance comes to mind where an officer was actually fired for their actions. A King County Sheriff’s officer who posted an “All Lives Splatter” meme on Facebook shortly after two Seattle-area protestors were struck and hospitalized (one tragically passed away from their injuries) by a vehicle that drove the wrong way down a freeway ramp to get onto a closed interstate where the demonstrators were marching. Not only did the aforementioned officer post said meme, but he had also been making numerous posts about unlawfully harassing people related to the protest and cheering on/joking about inflicting more violence against them ON HIS PUBLIC FACEBOOK that had pictures of him in uniform and with his police vehicle.

Heck, the lack of accountability doesn’t stop at just the BLM protests. Six, count them SIX, Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers have come forward and told on themselves, admitting that they were in Washington, D.C. on the day of the insurrection, but SPD and the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) still have not disclosed who they are. I don’t think they’ve even suspended them! In fact, the officers just filed a lawsuit against SPD, the OPA, and apparently any private citizen who had made a public records request in an effort to uncover who they are, to ensure that their identities are kept private. The lengths they will go to in order to skirt around accountability are just….oof.

Comparing the two incidents, one might wonder “what caused the vast differences in how police officers reacted to these two ‘protests’?” There may be numerous factors, but it most likely boils down to two things: who is involved and the purpose of the gathering. When thousands of BIPOC and allies came together to call for a substantive change in policing, particularly in relation to how black folks are treated, the police reacted violently for months, and still do, but when a predominantly white crowd stormed the United States capitol building in an attempt to overthrow the results of a presidential election, we see images of officers taking selfies with them and holding their hands to help them down the stairs after. There is a clear and implicit bias that comes through in the messaging and response from the police, and other government officials, in these two situations. A bias towards privilege, a bias towards supremacy, and a bias towards maintaining the status quo – which is exactly why the Black Lives Matter protests started in the first place. 

That’s all folks! I don’t know how to really wrap this up, but I’m glad you got to read it cause the shorter version I wrote for work will probably be too ‘divisive’ to be published anyway. Oh before I go, that cover photo up at the top? It’s the two demonstrations I talked about in this blog. Top is the Capitol during a BLM protest over the summer, bottom is January 6th after months of signaling that there would be violence from the Trump camp. I know if you’re reading this, you probably already get it, but in case you need more visual proof, there it is. Anyway, thanks for sticking around and I’ll catch you on the next one, which will probably be more lighthearted.

THE WORLD IS YOUR BURRITO

Links:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: