Like many Americans, President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday accused US authorities of treating a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol more leniently than last year’s anti-racism demonstrators.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday… they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” Biden said in an address from his hometown in Delaware.
“We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable,” said Biden, who will take over the White House on January 20, after winning November’s election in part due to strong support from Black voters.
On Wednesday thousands of protesters — spurred on by a speech given by President Donald Trump — marched to the seat of the US legislature, where some broke down barriers and doors to invade the building in an unprecedented act that played out on live television.
But police officers in charge of security held off using tear gas until intruders had reached the heart of the building, where they roamed freely, ransacking offices.
US media reported that some law enforcement officials even opened doors for them.
The scene stood in stark contrast to last year’s anti-racism protests in the nation’s capital and beyond, which saw demonstrators forcibly dispersed by police, and the National Guard regularly deployed as an early preventive measure.
National Guard reinforcements did not arrive Wednesday until several hours into the chaos, despite participants publicizing their plans to gather days in advance.
Many Americans, led by anti-racism activists, have accused authorities overseeing Wednesday’s underwhelming response of “double standards.”
“We spent an entire summer last summer fighting for people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we are met with rubber bullets,” Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, told CNN.
Cullors praised Biden for acknowledging the unequal treatment of the two groups, and for highlighting the gulf “not just to the country, but… on a global stage.”
Michelle Obama also voiced outrage Thursday, suggesting the Trump supporters would have been treated differently had they been Black.
“This summer’s Black Lives Matter protests were an overwhelmingly peaceful movement… And yet, in city after city, day after day, we saw peaceful protestors met with brute force,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
In contrast, those who “desecrated the center of American government” this week “were led out of the building not in handcuffs, but free to carry on with their days,” she said.
– ‘Think of the carnage’ –
Prominent figures in the entertainment industry joined the condemnation, with “Captain America” actor Chris Evans tweeting: “Just think of the carnage had they not been white.”
“Just imagine for a second if BLM tried this BS.. Just sayin,” wrote rapper and actor Ice-T.
Meanwhile rapper Cardi B focused on Trump’s video message to the rioters released during the carnage, in which the president urged his supporters to “go home” but also told them: “We love you. You’re very special.”
Last year, Trump had assailed anti-racism protesters as “animals” and “thugs” who should be thrown in prison.
“The irony is pretty funny,” she tweeted. “Weren’t people just wild animals in the summer for demanding justice and now?”