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Some Triad residents see a double standard regarding law enforcement's treatment of Capitol rioters and Black Lives Matter protesters

Some Triad residents see a double standard regarding law enforcement's treatment of Capitol rioters and Black Lives Matter protesters


Some Triad residents see a double standard in how law enforcement officers treated rioters inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.

The Rev. Willard Bass, the executive director of the Institute for Dismantling Racism, said he wasn't surprised by the attack on the Capitol.

"I knew it could happen," said Bass, an associate minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. "This was terrorism."

Bass contrasted the law enforcement response to the Washington insurrectionists to the strong law enforcement response to Black Lives Matter protests around the Lincoln Memorial last summer and the Moral Monday protests in past years at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

"There is a double standard in law enforcement," Bass said. "Racism is institutional, and our nation operates that way."

On one occasion in 2013, Bass was among six ministers who were arrested in the General Assembly building for staging a sit-in near the offices of legislators. Bass and the ministers were part of a larger group of 100 protesters who were arrested during their demonstration against the policies of the Republican controlled N.C. General Assembly.

It was an act of civil disobedience and no physical altercations happened among the protesters and State Capitol police officers, Bass said.

In Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the Trump insurrectionists "were allowed to come in and do this mayhem," Bass said. "It was disappointing to see the most sacred place in our nation — where democracy was founded and managed every year from president to president.

"I haven't seen in America that we have reached that point that people believe Congress has done things so bad that it would amount to that (an insurrection)," Bass said.

Under flags bearing President Donald Trump's name, the Capitol attackers pinned a bloodied police officer in a doorway, mortally wounded another officer with a fire extinguisher and body slammed a third officer over a railing into the crowd.

Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges, who was pinned in the doorway, told CNN Friday that some insurrectionists thought the police would be on the their side.

"Some of them felt like we would be fast friends because so many of them have been vocal," Hodges said. "They say things like, 'Yeah, we've been supporting you through all this Black Lives Matter stuff, you should have our back,' and they felt entitled."

The rioters attempted to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden as the country's 46th president.

The insurrectionists chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" as they pressed inside the Capitol. They beat police with pipes and demanded to know House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's whereabouts. They hunted members of the U.S. House and Senate.

A man carried the Confederate battle flag through the halls of Congress.

Other hateful imagery included an anti-Semitic "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt created years ago by white supremacists, who sold them on the now-defunct website Aryanwear, said Aryeh Tuchman, associate director for the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

Also among the rioters were members of Groyper Army, a loose network of white nationalists, the white supremacist New Jersey European Heritage Association, and the far-right extremist Proud Boys, along with other known white supremacists, Tuchman said. While not all the anti-government groups were explicitly white supremacist, Tuchman said many support white supremacist beliefs.

"Anyone who flies a Confederate flag, even if they claim it's about heritage and not hate, we need to understand that it is a symbol of white supremacy," Tuchman said.

Five people, including a Capitol police officer and a rioter, have died.

More than 100 people have been arrested on charges connected to the Capitol riot. The charges range from curfew violations to serious federal felonies related to theft and weapons' possession.

Since the attempted coup, the FBI has identified more than 200 suspects, said Chris Wray, the FBI director.

Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. of Forsyth County said he also was troubled about the insurrection in Washington.

"I was saddened," Kimbrough said. "I was angry because regardless of whether you are black or white, Republican or Democrat, you are still an American.

"To see what happened at the Capitol should have offended you. I don't care what your (political) affiliation is or your race, color or creed. It should have offended you. It offended me."

Kimbrough said he would not second guess at how the Capitol police and Washington, D.C. police handled the attack on the Capitol.

"I have never been one to Monday morning quarterback someone's decisions," Kimbrough said. "There were some system failures. There were some communication failures.

"I would have done some things differently. The world saw what they saw, and I saw it."

When asked about whether a double standard exists among law enforcement agencies regarding how they treat white demonstrators and people of color who demonstrate, Kimbrough said, "We know that there are gaps and bridges that we got to close and bridges we've got to build as it relates to relationships and race relations in our country.

"We know that," Kimbrough said. "How people see you determines how people treat you. We've got to treat people better."

Last Wednesday, the U.S. House voted 232 to 197 to impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection" — the second time House members have impeached Trump.

"The attack on the Capitol was not as upsetting as the lack of response and preparation from those that swore to defend it," said Ayo Powell, a representative of Sistas 4 Change, a local community activist group.

"It was an eye opening and first-hand look at the difference in tactics and force used with one group who was unarmed and peacefully protesting compared to another group of armed and aggressive rioters attempting to overthrow the U.S. government," Powell said.

Powell helped organize a peaceful vigil last August in Winston Square Park to remember the victims of deadly gun violence in Winston-Salem.

For Powell, the Trump insurrectionists confronting and storming past Capitol police officers is a continuing disparity on how law enforcement agencies treat white demonstrators as opposed to the way they treat people of color who demonstrate. 

"It's not something that we in the Black community were unaware of, but now all of America got to see it," Powell said. "And that is the sad truth of America."

Capitol police officers who moved barricades for the pro-Trump protesters, took photographs with the rioters, "and basically failed to protect and serve with the same level of force and intimidation that they so easily display upon groups of people of color," Powell said.

Protests erupted in Washington and other U.S. cities last year surrounding the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer put his knee on Floyd's back for nearly nine minutes.

"(The) national guard, fire hoses, dogs, bullets, tear gas and many other tools have been used against protestors of color," Powell said, "whether they presented a threat or not."

Powell asked why none of this force was used in the riot inside the Capitol that quickly escalated.

"Why was assistance from other law enforcement agencies rejected," Powell asked. "The obvious and only answer is the difference between the complexion of the two groups."

Powell described Jan. 6 as a sad day in the country's recent history with the president inciting the riot "to the lacking police presence or force to ensure things did not reach the level that they did."

Powell also questioned the level of public anger about the mob violence in the attack on the Capitol and the lack of police force and presence.

District Attorney Jim O'Neill of Forsyth County said that the people who broke the law and stormed the Capitol should be arrested and prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law.

"I have been consistent all through the summer of 2020 in my stance and belief that, as Americans, we must support an individual’s right to peacefully protest," said O'Neill, who ran unsuccessfully as Republican candidate for N.C. Attorney General in the November election. "When the protestors, however, cross the line and violate the law, then those individuals should be arrested and prosecuted."

O'Neill plans to take his family to visit the Capitol in Washington "as part of the right of passage for my children to learn why our unique experiment in democracy must be respected and revered at all costs," he said. "The meaning of the Constitution is hollow when we do not respect an orderly and peaceful transition of power."

O'Neill also said he is praying for the friends, family and colleagues of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick who died from his injuries that he suffered in the insurrection.

"Brian paid the ultimate price defending our country, and our collective thoughts and thanks should be offered up to his family," O'Neill said.

O'Neill supported Trump during the 2020 election cycle because the president forced "long overdue" changes in the country's criminal justice system. The district attorney pointed to the passage of the Second Chance Act in North Carolina that state legislators approved last year.

That legislation was similar to the First Step Act that Congress passed in 2018, a measure that Trump supported, O'Neill said.

"As an elected official, I know the sacred trust the voters place in me to uphold the Constitutions of both the United States and the great state of North Carolina," O'Neill said. "Each time I am sworn in to take my oath of office, the pride in my country and my dedication to my position causes an awesome sense of gratitude and responsibility that fills my soul.

"These are not empty words, but a creed we must live by as a nation," O'Neill said.

Rabbi Mark Cohn of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem wrote two columns about the attack on the Capitol that were distributed to the synagogue's congregation.

In his first message, Cohn compared the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, to the recent chaotic riot in Washington.

"Jan. 6, 2021, will be a day that lives in greater infamy because our own citizens, not a foreign enemy, attacked the central institution of representative democracy," Cohn wrote. "I am disheartened by and terribly disappointed in the silence of people who could have led and by those who downplayed danger, vitriol, foolishness, lying and cruelty."

The nation is seething with anger and is in pain, Cohn wrote.

Amid a devastating pandemic, Trump "has supported an insurrection and undermined the sacred institutions of our lives," Cohn wrote. "And for those who have failed to support democracy, decency, diplomacy and discretion, we have even more work to do right now … . In fact, we have a lot more work.

"We, as a nation, have survived great difficulty," Cohn wrote. "I have every faith that we will survive this moment, but we will not come out unscathed."

Cohn pointed to the white terrorists who were allowed to storm the Capitol while peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were gassed and fired upon.

"I do not condone the violence that erupted as a result of some of the Black Lives Matter marches this past summer," Cohn wrote. "Violence is a threat to everyone. But the stark difference in police response — let alone the instigating language of national leaders and people in power — to what happened … at the Capitol compared to the protests this past summer and fall cannot go unchecked, unexamined and unanswered."

Kimya Dennis, a former assistant professor of sociology and criminal studies at Salem College, said Capitol police and other law enforcement agencies received warnings prior to the attack on the Capitol.

"I'm not surprised by any of this," said Dennis, the founder of 365 Diversity LLC of Baltimore, which provides training, workshops for schools, universities, businesses and organizations. "I expected all of it."

Many white people on social media boasted about the planned attack on the Capitol before it happened, Dennis said.

Most of the insurrectionists were white people, Dennis said. If they had been people of color, "they would have been stopped at the door," by law enforcement officers and military units, she said.

The insurrection inside the Capitol "is an example of how white-led dominance doesn't vary by political party or sociopolitical views," Dennis said. "White people never close doors, and they will never dismantle white supremacy.

"That applies to white police officers (and) white teachers. White people let this happen."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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