7 January 2021   1 comment

One of the most disturbing aspects of the storming of the Capitol building in Washington, DC was the stark contrast between the treatment of the Black Lives Matter protesters in June 2020 and the terrorists that broke into the Capitol yesterday. In Lafayette Square the consensus of most observers was that the protest was overwhelmingly peaceful. But a very well armed contingent of police used chemicals and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. The situation at the Capitol yesterday was that there were very few officers save the Capitol police who were inadequately armed and staffed.

There is a clear explanation for the difference between the two events which stems from the composition of the two protesting groups (people of color vs. whites) as well as the issues pursued by both (issues not supported by Trump and issues favorable to Trump). For me, that explanation is both valid and compelling.

But there is another concern raised by the difference: the degree to which security officials were prepared for the possibility of violence. In Lafayette Square there was overwhelming and armed preparation and we can probably assume that, if violence had broken out, it would have been quickly snuffed out. But at the Capitol, there was seemingly no preparation at all.

The lack of preparation needs to be explained. There was no lack of evidence that violence was likely on 6 January 2021. Indeed, on 19 December, President Trump tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” There was a website (thedonald.win) posted on Reddit that allowed people to suggest that violence would occur on 6 January. The Washington Post quoted some excerpts from the site:

“The group said thedonald.win had more than 18 million visits in November, and the recent posts with calls for violence had more than 40,000 engagements. One particularly troubling post said protesters should travel in groups that should ‘not let [anyone] disarm someone without stacking bodies.’ It added that protesters should be ‘ARMED WITH RIFLE, HANDGUN, 2 KNIVES AND AS MUCH AMMO AS YOU CAN CARRY.’

“In one thread promoted by moderators Tuesday morning, titled ‘GOOD LUCK PATRIOTS, THE EYES OF THE WORLD LOOK UPON YOU NOW!!!,’ posters shared tactical guides on how to avoid police blockades and D.C. gun laws, including: ‘If you plan on carrying concealed, don’t tell anyone you have a gun.’ One commenter responded, ‘We The People, will not tolerate a Steal. No retreat, No Surrender. Restore to my President what you stole or reap the consequences!!!’”

A key question for the lack of preparation is why the National Guard was not called out earlier to provide security. The District of Columbia has its own National Guard, but, unlike the Guard for the 50 states, the DC Guard is governed by the US Defense Department. That Department has witnessed a very large turnover within its ranks since the election in November with many career officials being replaced by people clearly loyal to President Trump (and with very few appropriate credentials). The Washington Post notes the constraints imposed on the DC Guard just before the 6 January ceremony in Congress confirming the victory of Biden as President:

“In memos issued on Jan. 4 and 5, the Pentagon prohibited the District’s guardsmen from receiving ammunition or riot gear, interacting with protesters unless necessary for self-defense, sharing equipment with local law enforcement or using Guard surveillance and air assets without the defense secretary’s explicit sign-off, according to officials familiar with the orders.

“The D.C. Guard was also told it would be allowed to deploy a Quick Reaction Force only as a measure of last resort, the officials said.

“The need for higher-level approval appeared to have slowed the military response when the Capitol Police, the law enforcement force that reports to Congress and protects the House and the Senate, requested backup from 200 troops during a call with top Pentagon officials early Wednesday afternoon, according to officials familiar with the call.”

It appears to me that deliberate decisions were made to make the Capitol more vulnerable to violence and also to eschew an opportunity to demonstrate a willingness to repress violence that might have alienated the people who supported Trump. This possibility suggests that, for the next weeks and until the time that President Biden can replace some people in the Defense Department, there is a real possibility that decisions will be made that prioritize politics over security.

Posted January 7, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

One response to “7 January 2021

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  1. Thank you for sharing your clear analysis. It is disturbing but we need to know the truth about these events and the risks our country still faces.

    Like

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