LOS ANGELES - People across the country watched as hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in support of President Donald Trump, and some are pointing out differences in the policing tactics at the Capitol compared to the Black Lives Matter protests from last summer.
The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests across the nation were sparked primarily by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with other Black people who died at the hands of police. In several cities, protesters encountered a heavy police presence. In Los Angeles, protesters recall being met with tear gas, rubber bullets and handcuffs.
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"There were thousands of folks who were brutalized and arrested at the hands of police. Even in December, we had our folks beaten to the point of hospitalization. We had an elder trampled by LAPD, 72-years-old, knocked to the ground and trampled. We had some comrades attempting to come to the aid of our elder arrested," said Melina Abdullah, the Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
Abdullah said she could not help but notice the difference in tactics at the U.S. Capitol, which was left without a police presence for hours.
"We should be appalled, and outraged, but not surprised. I don't think anyone should be surprised, but we should be outraged. What we witnessed was a white supremacist terrorist coup in the United States. We know that the treatment of Black people looks one way while the treatment of White folks who are actually committing acts of violence and terror are treated with deference," said Abdullah.
In June, a group of Black Lives Matter protesters entered an apartment building in Hollywood after being invited in by Laura Auer, who wanted to shield the protesters from arrest for breaking curfew.
At one point, the group gathered on the roof of the building and formed BLM with their bodies in a powerful moment as the building was surrounded by police.
"We were being treated like we were hiding a murderer who was on the run, who just shot a bunch of people and was literally hiding on my roof. We saw how the police were treating everybody and people were getting beaten and gassed, and I had more than ten real guns at my head for a while," said Auer.
Auer described the incident as "traumatizing."
"They [police] perceived the BLM protests as a significant threat and obviously they didn't at all perceive that [US Capitol] situation as a threat. Not one human being that was protesting for any of the reasons that anybody did throughout the year [at the BLM protests] would have ever thought to do what they [US Capitol rioters] did," said Auer.
Urijah Sailes was on the roof that night but was able to hide from the police to avoid arrest.
"They [police] stormed into the building and they broke into the building illegally and arrested everybody on the roof. I was blessed to enter that building, but the other ones that were arrested, they're heroes. The people at the U.S. Capitol are not patriots," said Sailes.
Sailes said he was angry while watching the coverage of the U.S. Capitol and seeing a lack of police response.
"I was extremely angry. If it was Black people or Muslims, it wouldn't have even gone that far to even reach the steps. I remember eight years ago, my family was at the Capitol building, and we couldn't even get on the steps. We asked a security guard and he said no. The fact that these people were able to even breach the steps, don't think about entering the building, but to breach the steps was baffling to me, but not surprising because you have a man [President Trump] in the White House who ordered the whole thing," said Sailes.
Justin McWashington was also on the roof that night and shared his thoughts about what unfolded at the U.S. Capitol compared to their treatment.
"Yesterday‘s fiasco at the Capitol was a clear representation of appalling privilege. The way we were treated when we were peaceful was absolutely horrendous, backed into a corner, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, and beat up, but when these upstanding citizens storm the Capitol in some instances they look like they were welcomed. Some videos show lack of force. Some cops didn’t even care. I believe it shows that we are absolutely divided as a nation," said McWashington.
McWashington describes the night on the roof.
"I think back to when the BLM protest was going on and I had more bruises than I had skin. I’m still dealing with it all mentally, but as Black people, we don’t have time to stop or feel sorry for ourselves. We keep pushing and keep smiling, but when we turn the TV on and see those Trump supporters getting treated with respect when they are disrespecting everything we live for and stand for, it just gets under your skin, and you know if you speak up and speak out, your voice won’t only be silenced, but you as a person in the society may not see you the next day, and that’s the grim honest truth about it," said McWashington.
Some of the protesters hope the difference in policing will spark important conversations about race issues in America.
"We can't turn a blind eye to this," said Sailes.
"We're at a crossroads and we have an opportunity now to see in stark terms what's happening in this country. This is absolutely about policing, but it's also about the underlying white supremacy that's been whipped into a frenzy over the last four years, but that white supremacy has always been there. That white supremacy violence has always been there and continues to grow," said Abdullah.
President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also noted a "double standard" in law enforcement's response.
During a press conference, Biden said "No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they would have been treated very, very differently than a mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol."
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers also brought it up and said, "Could you imagine today if those were all Black people storming the Capitol and what would've happened?"