We are just one day into an attempted coup. By now the photos of the insurrection at the Capitol building indict many of the participants with ties to right wing conspiracy groups, and domestic terrorism.
There was a lot to emotionally process yesterday. The insurrection alone was predictable, but shocking. Armed men and women entering OUR house of democracy.
The government was clearly under attack. The entire legislative branch was in session, including the vice president of the United States and his family.
The insurrection was a direct result of incited violence by Ruby Guiliani, and the current President of The United States at a rally just minutes before the coup began.
The response by law enforcement was also predictable, but shocking.
The USCP (The United States Capitol Police) is a federally trained police force. When I was eight and standing in line for a customary tourist tour of the White House, my three year old brother turned around and said louder than normal, “We don’t like President Reagan, do we Mom?”
The Capitol Police force pulled us out of line and questioned us for that comment. They put their hands on their hips and gave a show of force towards my then preschool brother.
“Now, son, they spewed, you must respect the President of the United State in his house.”
Spunky me replied, “I thought it was everyone’s house?” “Um…sir?” My voice quivered a little, but I flashed my white skin and pale blue eyes, unknowing at eight years old that mattered.
I am reminded of that exchange as I watch with the rest of the world the complete lack of security at the Capitol Building yesterday. Police taking selfies with the insurgency, escorting them out without making arrests. Everyone flashing their white skin.
In the end, Capital Police made only 13 arrests for unlawful entry, although more arrests and charges are forthcoming.
It is a stark comparison between the 14,000 protesters who were arrested after George Floyd was killed this summer while in police custody this summer. We still don’t even know if George Floyd committed a crime.
The showing of police and security seemed incredibly restrained compared to the national guard deployment to the streets of Washington D.C just last summer over Black Lives Matter protesting.
A comparison so blatant it is getting wide national attention. White lawmakers suggesting the breach in security at the Capitol must be an inside job. Their calls for a thorough investigation reverberate their outrage.
The reality is their white privilege keeps them from seeing what is obvious. No, it wasn’t an inside job, it’s the racist state of policing in America.
Policing in America has become more militant than ever over the last few decades. It gives law enforcement too much individual power to decide who is a criminal, and what, if any, crime is being committed.
In the militant ranks of the self described powerful, the criminal is obvious and predetermined by systemic systems of racism and oppression.
It is clear why white people in this country don’t tend to fear the police. As the insurgency descended upon the Capitol Building, the insurgents were showing their faces and giving their full names to reporters. They weren’t fearing for their lives, they weren’t afraid at all.
Like a tiny little white girl rebuffing a federal police officer her civil rights. Unabashedly unafraid.
The insurgents weren’t brave or brazen in their endeavor, they were just right about the police. There was no real threat from the militant police force that far too long has sided with them on who is designated a criminal in America.
On an on air interview with NPR one day after the coup attempt, John Cantazana, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 in Chicago is quoted saying the following:
“There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property,” Catanzara told WBEZ in a Wednesday evening phone interview. “It was a bunch of pissed-off people”
Rashida Tlaib, Congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th district replied on twitter:
It doesn’t change simply with more oversight, or with more training, or diversity day. It’s an ingrained systemic racism and systemic discrimination against oppressed people.
In 2017, Capitol Police managed to arrest dozens of disability rights advocates peacefully protesting in the Capitol building about proposed cuts to Medicaid. They were carried out in handcuffs, taken out of their wheelchairs in the most inhumane way possible.
The insurgents stained our democracy waving a confederate flag through the Senate chambers. It’s a shameful indignity towards justice as police took selfies and gently escorted the insurgents out of the Capital.
It was a certain slap in the face that was not to be ignored.
Many elected officials across our nation are calling upon Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to immediately remove the current President from office.
For as many Senators, House Representatives, Mayors, and Governors call for removal, a larger number just turn the page and put the incident behind them.
Grit our teeth and pray, we are told from many through the pulpit of government, Pray it doesn’t escalate for the next thirteen days, like this insurgency has any desire to pause when Biden takes office.
There is no action that suggests a sigh of relief is close at hand after inauguration.
Some lawmakers worry of escalating violence at a state level, or further violence in Washington D.C. if further prosecution is taken.
This was not a concern for most Police forces and elected officials last year when the echo of law and order rang into peaceful protests with tear gas and brutality.
Violence escalated in many areas across America amid the response of police brutality and undo force towards Black Lives Matter protests in Washington DC. Law enforcement assumed individual responsibility for the protesters who experienced harm at the hands of the police
The truth is far more sinister. White people don’t get killed and harassed by the police even while committing an obvious crime on national television.
When John Adams quietly got into a carriage and headed home to Massachusetts after the election of 1800, he gave the world the first democratic transition by an elected head of state to a political rival in the history of the world.
It’s our ability to hand off our entire government to a political enemy should the will of the people vote them out. It’s the greatest gift America has given the world.
I naively still believe in this American value. Even when it feels like it’s all burning down. Even when I know this transfer of power will not undo the damage caused by the exploitation of millions of Americans into a belief system that only serves one person.
The militarization of our police force nationwide is one of our greatest challenges. It comes at a time of enormous instability in our health system, and the inability of our government to be able to house and feed all of our citizens appropriately.
We must change systemic systems of oppression and racism.
In order to rise to this challenge, we need to fundamentally change the systems of power in America. It is in the hands of the too few, too wealthy, too white, too blue.
It’s critically unfair and broken beyond any system of reform could offer. From the ground up we can rebuild. We must defund it, redesign it, and fund it better.
Black Lives Matter is needed more than ever, in our local communities, in local government, and on national television. This is just a start of organizing a new power structure that is inclusive and gives people control over their own personal agency.
We need to give power back to the people. It is not impossible. It takes brave leaders, and honest conversations.
Hold insurgents responsible, remove from office those involved. Treat every Black person like they are just storming the Capitol. Take a selfie, make conversation, don’t shoot people because they are Black.
Joy Ellen Sauter is a Freelance Writer currently living in Seattle Washington. She writes about mental health, popular culture, and disability rights. She studied History at Penn State University, concentrating on American cultural movements. She is looking for representation for her book, “I Want To Change the World.” A work of historical fiction about the 1960’s.