[originally published June 2, 2020]
UPDATE: On January 6, 2021, thousands of angry, far-right Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. So far, five people are dead. Rioters constructed a gallows (complete with hanging noose) outside the building, others carried guns, zip-ties, pepper spray, tear gas, molotov cocktails, and other devices suggesting altercations and violence were part of their plan. At least three explosive devices were planted and recovered by authorities.
Most Capitol police were surely adhering to their commitment to protect the Capitol and legislators.
Yet, numerous videos show Capitol police allowing and even encouraging rioters. Videos show: police opening a barricade to let in protestors; police officer taking a selfie with rioters; police officer waving protestors in; officers peacefully letting out rioters who had committed criminal trespass; officers NOT arresting a man who was punching them; and more. These protestors (those who stayed outside and used their words only) and rioters were white, with very few exceptions.
Hundreds of protests have erupted this past week , fueled by the righteous anger over the murder of another unarmed black man. And there is a stark contrast between how these protests are handled compared to those taking place at state capitols around the country by those opposed to Covid-19 restrictions.
Let’s set aside the looters and rioters for now, that subset who took advantage of the mayhem and/or whose outrage destroyed their common sense. (After all, if a veteran police officer’s common sense is scant enough to allow him to murder someone meticulously for nine torturous minutes in front of civilian and law-enforcement witnesses, is there hope for any untrained person pushed to the edge by decades — even centuries — of injustice?)
So picture the civil and lawful protests of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the wake of yet another killing of an non-weaponized black person at the hands of those hired to protect and serve them. Recall the images of police pushing them down, teargassing them from yards away, clubbing them.
Then let’s picture the few hundred to a thousand or so angry white people convening at state capitols around the country last month in protest of the stay-at-home and orders meant to protect American lives.
Dozens of those angry white people were carrying guns, sometimes military-style assault rifles for which there is no practical purpose outside of war. In Michigan they stormed the capitol building and verbally assaulted the police and government officials, spit-shouting in their faces during a contagious viral pandemic; Across the nation similar groups verbally abused government officials and police while carrying guns and sometimes wearing tactical gear, and backed by hundreds more unarmed, angry protestors who were almost exclusively white people.
Meant to intimidate? Yes. Threatening? Yes. Life-threatening? Implied. Duh…guns. After all, this wasn’t a right-to-bear-arms rally. If your intent was a peaceful rally, where words are the “weapon” and there is virtually no threat of police violence towards you (as a white person), why would you bring your gun unless you wanted to intimidate the police and government officials?
How do you think the “open-the-economy” rallies would have gone if dozens of black men carrying assault rifles or other guns stormed the state capitols shouting threats, backed by an angry mob of hundreds more black people?
There is little doubt it would have been a lot bloodier, and police surely would have made numerous arrests. If you’ve had a hard time understanding your inherent privilege as a white man or woman, this is an easily understandable example.
And if you were one of those white guys protesting at a capitol building, what would you have done with your gun if an angry mob of armed black men stormed the building in righteous anger over police brutality toward black and brown Americans?
Would you have assumed their guns were posturing, for show? Or would you have pulled yours on them, ostensibly to protect the very police you were just harassing?
Would you protect their right to bear arms? Would the police?
Author’s note: I grew up around lots of guns. (We even had a room in our house called The Gun Room.) They were for hunting and in some cases as collector’s items. In our region, owning guns was part of subsistence, not primarily showmanship or false maturity. Wielding a gun does not make you more of a man. Developing communication and mediation skills help make you a better man. Any successful military officer will tell you that — the point is to avoid war, not suggest it.