Capitol insurrection…Who were the police protecting? And were politicians making the calls as to how much protection would be available. This is such a tough issue since the Right feels that the police should defend their position - because aren’t they for Trump?
And here’s how the Black Capitol Hill cops were treated by the off-duty white cops who flashed their badges at the crowds.
Two Black officers told BuzzFeed News that their chief and other upper management left them totally unprepared and were nowhere to be found on the day.
The first glimpse of the deadly tragedy that was about to unfold came at 9 a.m. on the morning of the insurrection for one Black veteran of the US Capitol Police. But it didn’t come from his superiors — instead the officer had to rely on a screenshot from Instagram sent to him by a friend.
“I found out what they were planning when a friend of mine screenshot me an Instagram story from the Proud Boys saying, ‘We’re breaching the capitol today, guys. I hope y’all already.’” The officer, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation from his superiors, told BuzzFeed News that it was just a sign of the chaos that was to come, which saw officers regularly finding themselves unprepared and then outmanned and overpowered by the mob.
The officer said that while the department’s upper management had been telling them to prepare for Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol like they would for any other protest, that Instagram post sent a clear message: this wasn’t going to be just some kind of free speech protest, this was going to be a fight.
Management’s inaction left Black police officers especially vulnerable to a mob that had been whipped up by President Donald Trump, a man who has a record of inspiring racist vigilantes to action. One of the most defining videos of that day was of one of their colleagues, another Black officer, trying in vain to hold back the tide of rioters who had broken into the building and were hunting for Congressional members.
BuzzFeed News spoke to two Black officers who described a harrowing day in which they were forced to endure racist abuse — including repeatedly being called the n-word — as they tried to do their job of protecting the Capitol building, and by extension the very functioning of American democracy. The officers said they were wrong footed, fighting off an invading force that their managers had downplayed, and not prepared them for. They had all been issued gas masks, for example, but management didn’t tell them to bring them in on the day. Capitol Police did not respond to BuzzFeed News’s request for comment about the allegations made by officers.
In a crowd where some carried flags bearing a thin blue line - a pro-police symbol that critics claim also stands for white supremacy and opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement - and shirts adorned with “Blue Lives Matter,” a tide of anger and frustration rose as officers
pushed them back. Nearly three hours after the building was breached, police cleared the grounds and used batons and chemical munitions to confront the mob.
“You should be on our side,” a woman in a Trump 2020 sweatshirt called at them. " 'We the people’ means police, too!"
“Is this honoring your oath? Pushing patriots around?” another man yelled as an officer shoved him backward with a baton.
Some promised to return with weapons, ready to fight if necessary. A man repeatedly announced he would be back with his rifle for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Police experts worry this souring sentiment may lead to more violence in the months ahead. They caution that officers in Washington should prepare to be met with increasing hostility from crowds that previously have clamored for selfies and handshakes from them.
"In general, the public has this mistaken assumption that the police are there to serve and protect them," Maria Haberfeld, a professor of police science at John Jay College, said. "The police do what the politicians and other officials tell them to do or not to do."
Neither D.C. police nor Capitol Police responded to a request for comment.
Conservatives and members of the far-right long have sought to position themselves on the same side of the societal and cultural divide as police. Republicans backed President Donald Trump’s campaign message of “law and order,” and amid rising calls to “defund the police” during racial justice protests last year, the GOP was swift to criticize efforts to shrink police budgets. Police unions and officers vocally supported Trump’s bid for a second term.
But on Wednesday, as the Capitol was being breached and ransacked, people who see themselves as friends of the police were confronted with the reality that law enforcement would not always respond in kind.
"When police have to move against various groups that have supported them, they expect the police to be on their side when they do illegal things, but policing is not really a discretionary behavior," Haberfeld said. “When people behave the way they behaved at the Capitol, it mandated only one response: Move them out. Arrest them all.”
The law enforcement response, which has been roundly criticized, was tepid compared to police responses to summer protests when demonstrators were arrested en masse. But Trump supporters, who were mostly White, balked at any amount of police resistance Wednesday.
In far-right online forums after the insurrection - during which five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died - Proud Boys, conspiracists, members of armed groups and white nationalists sought to further erode Trump supporters’ veneration of the police by posting videos of officers and rioters exchanging punches and unleashing streams of pepper spray.
“The blue does not back you,” reads a message posted in a pro-Proud Boys group with more than 37,000 followers on social media app Parler. “They back the men who pay them.”
On Wednesday, three hours after the 6 p.m. curfew by Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D, went into effect, a reinforced squad of police officers, Capitol Police officers and National Guard members pushed back a diminishing crowd of Trump’s supporters, who continued to shout abuse at police.
The rhetoric was, at times, similar to far-left protesters who have coined a phrase for police that includes an expletive, while also posting violent anti-police memes in online chats and social media forums.
At racial justice protests over the summer, following a spate of police killings of Black men and women around the country, protesters called police “murderers” and implored officers to join them or take a knee to express solidarity.
But unlike at racial justice demonstrations, where police would fire chemical munitions into areas where protesters were being treated by medics or advance on ailing protesters, several officers at the Capitol on Wednesday seemed sympathetic to the rioters.
Police helped some supporters of the president wash out their eyes after being hit with chemical irritants. At the Capitol gates, some smiled and posed for photos.
Jamie Longazel, who has studied the “Blue Lives Matter” movement since it was formed as backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement, said many of the people who espouse a pro-police ideology are unlikely to change their stripes overnight.