Student Opinion: Racial Disparities Behind the Breach at Capitol Hill

(Associated Press)

By Susana Jurado

United States history was made on Wednesday afternoon when for the first time since 1814, Capitol Hill was officially breached and besieged, this time by a swarm of Trump supporters––descending these grand demonstrations into moments of chaos and violence. Congress and the Senate were found in great peril as many public officials were forced to evacuate while in the middle of certifying the vote count in favor of President-Elect Biden’s win. 

Hundreds stood in front of Capitol Hill waving flags of support for Trump and his campaign to overturn the election in his favor. With his encouragement, supporters took to the streets to share in his outrage toward Congress’s certification meeting. The situation escalated when frenzied rioters began breaking through the windows and barricades of Capitol Hill. 

Carrying confederate flags and religious propaganda, the protesters stormed into Capitol Hill screaming for justice while pushing against police and security trying to prevent their entry. With a few painted faces of red, white and blue and no clear indication of any masks, they broke into and vandalized public officials’ offices including the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Vice President Mike Pence had to be quickly escorted to safety out of the Senate Chamber because of the impending danger heading his way.

According to an NBC News report, as rioters tried to burst into the House Chamber, there was a dramatic scene of police officers drawing their guns to guard lawmakers still inside; some desperately hid behind benches while others were seen praying. A 6 p.m. curfew was announced by the Washington D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser and put into effect later that evening.

Though the Senate chamber was locked and empty, that did not stop the rioters, who broke down doors and shattered windows to reach inside. As if it were almost a game, some individuals jokingly sat on the Senate Chair mocking the very institutions that built up this country. The democracy these protesters were supposedly there to defend. 

NBC News reported that four people were pronounced dead towards the end of the night, including one woman who was shot cold on the floors of Capitol Hill in the middle of all the chaos. Officers at the scene told the press that explosive devices were found across the Capitol floors––one obviously made with a metal pipe. 

With hundreds flooding into the Capitol Building and climbing through shattered windows, the pillars of our democracy shook beneath us, and yet only 14 people were arrested. What was the President’s reaction to all this? His focus was on Vice President Pence and his neglect to support the President in his “fraudulent” election endeavors. 

Rather than condemn the rioters as many authority figures, including President-elect Joe Biden, demanded, Donald Trump boldly put out a short video reaffirming his baseless claims on voter fraud and explicitly telling these mobsters, “I love you” and “you are special.

Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were bombarded with images and videos of the horrifying events that occurred on that fateful day, leaving many to question: Where was the police? Why was the security overwhelmingly low and a complete failure? 

There was a clear indication that these white rioters were treated differently from Black protesters who led demonstrations for the Black Lives Matter movement. Based on an NPR report, there was definitely light resistance from the authorities, and it took hours until the police had the situation under control. If this were a Black Lives Matter protest, people would be dying in droves, arrests would have been made sooner and more frequently and the police treatment would have intensified three-fold.

As a Hispanic woman who physically saw and participated in the peaceful protests made by the Black Lives Matter movement in Los Angeles, witnessing the police’s lack of reaction at Capitol Hill was not only a disgraceful sight but a monumental disappointment. 

As a Salvadoran woman, I have personally experienced racism where people have walked out of restaurants because they saw my family stepping through the door. I remember their faces of pure hatred and disdain just looking to get as far away from us as possible. At that moment, I remember feeling flooded with emotions: confusion, anger and sadness as my family sat down.

I’ve witnessed a white woman confront my “light-skinned” cousin and bluntly ask her if “she was ok” or even “kidnapped.” My cousin could not understand why she asked her this but all the woman kept doing was staring at my cousin’s “brown” Salvadorian dad. These disheartening and painful experiences I’ve seen are nothing compared to the dozens of minority families who have gone through so much worse. 

Racial discrimination is real and what we saw at Capitol Hill that day only made it transparent. It has not only infected our communities, but it’s bringing its toxicity into the powerful forces of our government. These events brought shame and embarrassment to this country, bringing injustice to all those minority communities who have been victims of this mistreatment and abuse for far too long. 

A comparison of footage of highly militarized troops battering minorities in previous social justice demonstrations with footage of an officer taking selfies with white, pro-Trump rioters shows just how ugly our country really is. With hate symbols proudly spread across the crowd by many white supremacists, including a large monument of a hanging noose just to the left of Capitol Hill, the largely unobstructed Capitol Hill pillaging was a disgusting sight to see.

As President-elect Biden stated in his speech on Thursday, “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true — and it’s unacceptable.”

Former President Obama spoke on this issue, reported NPR, and referred to the gruesome scene of mistreated peaceful protesters demonstrating outside the White House last summer, stating, “And yet, in city after city, day after day, we saw peaceful protesters met with brute force. We saw cracked skulls and mass arrests, law enforcement pepper-spraying its way through a peaceful demonstration for a presidential photo op.”

President Trump loudly expressed his disdain for the Black Lives Matter protesters, referring to them as “thugs” while critiquing governors for allowing these protests to continue and calling on them to deploy the National Guard to “dominate the streets.”

Yet, the hypocrisy could not be more apparent. CNN reported in light of Trump’s passivity and the escalating violence; Vice President Mike Pence finally bore the burden of deploying the national guard.  This President placed himself before the country’s welfare, and because of this, he must be held accountable.

Susana Jurado is a 5th-year Communications major at UC Davis from Los Angeles. She is one of the Opinion Editors for the Davis Vanguard at UC Davis. 

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32 thoughts on “Student Opinion: Racial Disparities Behind the Breach at Capitol Hill”

    1. Susana Jurado

      That was no rally, that was a riot and don’t even try to compare the two. I’m sorry to break it to you but that domestic terrorist coup had everything to do with race. If you can’t see it, then you have obviously never experienced racism before.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Did you miss where I actually wrote “rally/riot“?

        As much as the left likes to make everything about race that rally/riot had nothing to do with race.

        1. Susana Jurado

          Pictures of rioters with large confederate flags were captured marching across Capitol Hill floors. A hanging noose monument was found to the left of Capitol Hill and white supremacist propaganda was promoted throughout the crowd. Groups like the Proud Boys, a far right neo-fascist group known for their white supremacist rhetoric, have even threatened that riots like these will continue if lawmakers don’t give into Trump. Only 14 people were arrested in the riot Wednesday against our own government, when I have witnessed close to 80 black and brown people getting arrested in Los Angeles in a peaceful BLM protest I attended. The lack of security and light resistance from the police, in fact, some even helping those same terrorists down the steps of Capitol Hill and taking selfies with them too. Would you like me to continue, or do you still deny the reality of race in this horrific event?

      2. Bill Marshall

        Please understand that in much of the video coverage, in real time, showed Black folk wearing “Blacks for Trump” sweatshirts… small %-age, but angry Black Trump supporters were present…

        The disparities of how the response from authorities between Wednesday and BLM protests and/or mobs were handled, is a different topic from my observations of ‘who was there’…

        1. Alan Miller

          Also, a much higher per-capita number of HLX persons are (were until yesterday?) Trump supporters relative to the per-capita number of black Trump supporters.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Likely, very true story, Alan M…

          There used to be a very significant %-age of Latinx voters who were voting Republican, generally on family values, anti-abortion, and other ‘faith-based’ factors… not so much today… those folk haven’t much changed, rather their concerns about immigration biases, reactions against opposition to health care legislation (ACA), etc., espoused by Republicans over the last few years…

          I believe a lot of them will be migrating (pun unintended) to NPP or Democrat… NPP because neither party represents a bulk of their values… whatever party they choose to affiliate with, they are less likely to vote for uber-conservative candidates.


  1. Ron Oertel

    Seems to me that BLM protests (such as the one in which a portion of Seattle was allowed to be shut down for an extended period) are primarily attended by white people.

    And perhaps somewhat ironically, two white people were mowed-down at high speed and killed by a black person on a Seattle freeway that was repeatedly allowed to be shut-down for BLM protests.  (Which appeared to be a negligent accident.)

    I seem to recall that the brother of Stephon Clark jumped on the podium at a Sacramento city council meeting, without consequences.

    Just a few examples, off the top-of-my-head. So I’m having trouble concluding that skin color is a consistent factor, regarding how law enforcement handles protesters.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The article that you cite does not state what you claim.

        And in order to compare disparities, you need to provide something to compare it to.

        Regardless, the article I posted above is more recent.  Arrests are ongoing. I believe that being charged with a federal crime is generally more serious than other types of charges.

        1. Susana Jurado

          As I said before, I was speaking about the arrests related to the breach on Wednesday only. This came from the article I just cited above – published right after the breach.

          “Capitol police made 14 arrests last night, none were D.C. residents
          The U.S. Capitol Police Department made 14 arrests related to the breach at the Capitol on Wednesday.
          Most of those arrested were charged with unlawful entry, but there were also people arrested for weapons possession and assaulting an officer.
          The department released the names and hometowns of the people arrested. None of them are Washington residents.
          Their charges are as follows:
          Unlawful Entry

          Leonard Guthrie, Cape May, N.J.
          John Anderson, St. Augustine, Fla.
          Matthew Council, Riverview, Fla.
          Bradley Ruskelas, Inverness, Ill.
          Michael Curzio, Summerfield, Fla
          Cindy Fitchett, Cobbs Creek, Va.
          Terry Brown, Myerstown, Pa.
          Douglas Sweet, Hudgins, Va.
          Thomas Gallagher, Bridgewater, N.H.
          Zandra Sixkiller-Cramer, Glenwood, Md.”


      2. Matt Williams

        Susana, the numbers you cite clearly support your premise of the disparity between how Wednesday was handled and prior events were handled … no matter how much specific sources of those numbers may be questioned.

        With that said, I would personally like you to consider the possibility that if the authorities had responded the same way they have in the 2020 incidents, then they would have been (1) perpetuating a failed model of public safety, (2) providing one more precedent for violently handling the next incident (whenever and wherever it happens), and (3) living out Einstein’s definition of insanity … doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

        I would argue that if we are going to change the public safety model in this country we need to stop believing violence is the way.  If the response on Wednesday was as aggressive and forceful as mob violence insurrection customarily warrants (and as the history you have cited attests to), there would simply be one more violent example to add to all the violent examples from 2020.

        However, if the belief was (with camera evidence providing authorities what they need to arrest and charge the participants in the insurrection) that instead of diverting scarce resources to processing arrests, those resources should instead focus on keeping confrontational violence from breaking out further, then I think that belief was wise.   It can also stand as an example “first step” toward a beter model of public safety provision.

        For me, the timing of the arrests is not as meaningful as defusing the situation.  However, if there are not arrests and charges of many, many people (my sense is that the number should exceed 1,000) in the next 24 hours, then my hopes for this being an example of a better model will probably have been wishful thinking.

        1. Bill Marshall

          I would argue that if we are going to change the public safety model in this country we need to stop believing violence is the way.

          I agree, to a point… however, if someone comes at me or mine, violently, with a threat to safety or life, I am prepared to use any/all tools available to stop it… violently (up to and including lethal force), if necessary… to end the immediate threat… not revenge, and not retaliation… simple protection…

          You don’t bring a pocket knife to a gunfight… unless you’re ‘into’ being a martyr…

  2. Ron Oertel

    Susana, the numbers you cite clearly support your premise of the disparity between how Wednesday was handled and prior events were handled … no matter how much specific sources of those numbers may be questioned.

    The premise (in this article, and others) is that a disparity in enforcement exists, and is based upon skin color.

    I’m not seeing consistent evidence of that. I’m not even seeing a comparison in the first place, much less breaking it down via skin color. (Which likely isn’t possible, for reasons already discussed.)

    Then there’s issues such as the difference in police systems (e.g., those assigned to protect the capitol, vs. city police). Already, it’s been acknowledged that there was a breakdown in enforcement in this case. (Again, not necessarily based upon skin color.)

    I don’t think this is as simple as some automatically believe. And again, arrests are ongoing.


    1. Ron Oertel

      And by the same token, I suppose one could argue that there’s less outpouring of outrage (among some members of the public – or perhaps even among the “attendees”), regarding the police officer who shot the female “attendee”. (Trying to find a word to describe the attendees, since some object to “protester”.)

        1. Ron Oertel

          I would think that there might be a difference between those breaking down doors, vs. those who then walked in afterward. 

          (And/or were essentially allowed to do so.)

          I don’t think this was a singular group. Nor did Trump encourage them to enter the Capitol. (He should have envisioned that possibility, though.)

          I understand that Trump has since (pretty-strongly) disavowed those who broke the law.


    2. Alan Miller

      And again, arrests are ongoing.

      Thank God for facial recognition software 😐  And in this case, the fact that it has been proven that FRS is ‘racist’ — as in it is more accurate for white faces — may be an advantage in this case!

        1. Ron Oertel

          And by the way, who is his friend(?) who thought it would be a good idea to take that photo and post it?

          And, were any comments made at the time, such as, “This will be great!” 😉

        2. Dave Hart

          Posting these photos of each other is just further evidence of the low quality of thinking and analysis that is unique to the QAnon, Proud Boys and Girls and others that claim the Democrats are trafficking in child sex and cannibalism in the Capitol basement or some pizza parlor.  Like their leader, DT, they are detached from reality and from any kind of social norm.  What to do with them…they are sort of like children with no parental supervision. Except, of course, they are adults and allowed to vote and own firearms and consume alcohol.

        3. Alan Miller

          I guess (in a sense) you’ve got to be in awe of this level of confidence(?), in some strange way.

          When Tod (Trump-God) just told you to march to the Capitol and make history, you probably believe that you will soon be in power and Trumpmerican heroes, like those who threw tea in the Bay.  Ooops.

        4. Alan Miller

          Posting these photos of each other is just further evidence of the low quality of thinking and analysis that is unique to the QAnon, Proud Boys and Girls and others that claim the Democrats are trafficking in child sex and cannibalism in the Capitol basement or some pizza parlor.

          WHAT ABOUT the (leftie/anarchist/opportunists) who filmed themselves/friends looting/smashing/burning and then got arrested?  Same level of low quality think and analysis.  WHAT ABOUT . . . . . .  -ISM!!!!

        5. Alan Miller

          This all just tu quoque, which allows people to dodge any moral responsibility.

          Declaring my statements a tu quoque fallacy is itself a Motte-Bailey fallacy.  Who exactly are the “people” you are accusing of dodging moral responsibility – WHO and for WHAT?

  3. Keith Olsen

    How many looters were arrested during the BLM riots?  How many looters were ever convicted?  What we all saw on the news all summer was chaos and looting with little in the way of consequences.

    1. Chris Griffith

      These guys were morons just down the street there was a perfectly good Target store they could have looted then they could have moved on to bunch of local businesses in the name of social justice or whatever,  the Davis Vanguard would have covered this protest a heck of a lot differently, I’ll tell you that. Just think they would have all went home with a free 60-in television set as a bonus

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