A Double Standard in Capitol Arrests

I hadn’t planned on writing another post so soon after my last one. But, the storming of the U.S. Capitol incited by Donald Trump seemed worthy of a few words. Especially after I saw a piece on Forbes about the number of arrests. And, after I was inspired by the post-game comments of Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown:

“In one America, you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your backyard. In another America you get to storm the Capitol. No tear gas. No massive arrests. None of that. It’s 2021 and I don’t think anything has changed.” — Jaylen Brown

I’ll let you decide if 24-year old Jaylen Brown’s quote has more wisdom than anything you’ve heard recently from the president. What I can do is show you some quick data comparing arrests during the George Floyd Protests in D.C. compared to whatever you want to call what happened on January 6th.

A Quick Look at a Little Data

The Washington D.C. Police publish the number of “unrest-related arrests” on their website (again, props to the Forbes article, through which I found the data). In these data, they tabulate: “individuals arrested and processed for curfew violations, riot-related burglary, and other riot-related events.” The figure below shows you data for May 30th – June 2nd (the peak of the George Floyd protests in D.C), and then January 6th when the U.S. Capitol was stormed.

Figure. Arrests Related to Unrest in Washington D.C., May 30th – June 2nd 2020 and January 6th, 2021

Source: Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and USA Today (Bragg and Bacon). Arrests for January 6th are recorded as of 9:00am January 7th and do not include subsequent arrests.

So. On June 1st, 2020 there were over five times as many arrests in Washington D.C. associated with unrest as there were on January 6th, 2021. I’m not saying that there wasn’t violence or cause for arrests on the 1st of June. But, some of it was incited by the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters as President Trump did a photo-op. And, in any case, the legislative capitol of the free world wasn’t invaded. I mean just look at these pictures. I see a lot more than 52 people. And, I am pretty sure every single one of them is breaking the law.

A Hard Look at Ourselves

At first, I viewed January 6th 2020 as a good reminder that living in a Democracy puts us on a knife’s edge. We must get along with those we disagree with. We must try to accept the facts as they are…and sometimes that means accepting loss. Sometimes, we even have to live in a country whose leaders we are not proud of, but who others may like. We tolerate those times because we know we will have a shot in 2 or 4-years to go in a direction we want. But, when people refuse to accept those same things when they lose, we get close to that edge.

But, then I came to view January 6th through the lens of inequality. Honestly, I can’t say it much better than Jaylen Brown did. On January 6th, 2020, I watched people storm the U.S. Capitol incited by the U.S. President. Insanely, I also watched most of them walk right back out, their freedom intact. And I can’t help but think that this happened because most of them were white.

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