Posted on January 7, 2021

Capitol Hill Rioters Treatment Draws Cries of Hypocrisy from Minorities in Metro Detroit

Niraj Warikoo et al., Detroit Free Press, January 6, 2021

Civil rights activists and others in metro Detroit said they are outraged over Wednesday’s violent attack on Capitol Hill — noting the stark difference between how the mostly white men who stormed government buildings were treated compared to how communities of color protesting police brutality were roughly handled last year.

As the drama unfolded Wednesday, minorities and others said that the racial chasm was glaring and painful, but unfortunately, not surprising.

“When I see the way that Black people and people of color were treated last summer versus the way that this majority-white crowd is being treated … it’s unnerving,” said Imani Thomas, 25, of Southfield. “When Black Lives Matter protesters were in D.C. in the summer of 2020, we saw rubber bullets being shot at protesters who were for the most part there peacefully.”

The storming of the Capitol building in Washington brought back memories for many of the April protests, when right-wingers opposed to coronavirus guidelines entered the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing, many of them armed.

“This is terrorism right here in the United States of America,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II of Detroit, who often leads peaceful protests as the head of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network and pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church of Detroit. “This is not how we practice democracy.”

Williams took part in a rally of 200,000 people in August on Capitol Hill with Rev. Al Sharpton and others calling for police reform and justice. There was no violence at that protest.

“They call peaceful protesters terrorists and they call the terrorists protesters,” Williams said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

In August, “we had 200,000, not one violent act, nothing was broken, tore up, fully organized to make our voices heard,” Williams said. But the rioters Wednesday “are literally terrorizing this nation and exposing a frailty in our democracy. It’s absolutely upsetting.”

Detroit Will Breathe — a group that has held hundreds of police brutality protests over the past year — said the lack of reaction on Wednesday by security forces compared to how they’ve been treated during protests reveals a double standard. Many protesters with the group have been arrested, and some sustained injuries, over the past year for taking part in what they said were peaceful actions.

“Far right militias with long guns stormed the Michigan state Capitol with zero consequences while BLM protesters faced extreme police brutality. This is how we got here,” Detroit Will Breathe tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

They also noted how they were treated by police in Shelby Township during protests last year over their police chief.

“Once again: Shelby Township police brought out riot shields, attack dogs and felony charges for protesters who stepped off the sidewalk and into the street,” Detroit Will Breathe tweeted.

“Let the hypocrisy of all those critics of BLM lay in the open for all to see,” said Tristan Taylor, a leader with Detroit Will Breathe, on Facebook. “They are not against militancy unless it is the militancy of Black and Brown people fight for liberation!”


Thomas said she was sickened by the behavior of the rioters who broke glass and stormed the Capitol during the election certification process. {snip}

She said that Wednesday’s insurrection has “100% changed the way” she views the country as a Christian, and as a person of color.

“People are literally coming from all over the country to protest this, and it’s incredibly frustrating,” said Thomas. “Over the past four years and especially today, I’ve had this awakening of the fact that I am so different. There is no specific person that looks ‘American…’ but today I was reminded that I am not the ideal American to those that live in this country.”