Photo Essay: Police Understand Show of Force When Black Lives is the Cause for Demonstration

If you are an American citizen you live in a land of contradiction.

There are laws, social norms, advantages and freedoms that either apply or don’t apply to you depending on how you identify. It has been one week since domestic terrorists sieged the U.S. Capitol to due the bidding of Donald Trump. In exactly one week a new presidential administration will be sworn into office. Trump may face an unprecedented second impeachment or he may walk away from inciting an insurrection void of appropriate consequence.

If the latter outcome is the case it will be because Trump, despite all of his detestable humanity, belongs to a group of Americans who are allowed to break rules, redraw the lines around social norms, and only understand what it is to live privileged in a country designed for their gluttonous consumption.

Throughout the past week, there has been a great deal of conversation comparing the militarized police show-of-force enacted on Black Lives Matter protesters in the wake of the killing of George Floyd versus that of the relatively “kid-glove” treatment by law enforcement towards the Capitol insurrectionists.

Arrests of participants in the coup have been made in the aftermath, but what has been examined by media outlets, social justice advocates and the like is that Black Lives Matter activists and allies would not have made it out of an attempted insurrection alive to have the opportunity to be criminally charged.

And if there is any selective amnesia about the manner in which protesters were treated in the summer of 2020, the following Shutterstock images are a helpful reminder about how dissent is too a privilege afforded to some and a catalyst to brutality, incarceration or death to others.

May 31, 2020: Protesters kneeling before police days after the murder of George Floyd; San Jose, CA

photo credit: Shutterstock user: hkalkan

A legal apparatus that was not designed for the protection of some will accept nothing less than unconditional submission from those it deems undesirables. It expects the least of us to grovel for mercy while having no plans of offering any.

May 30, 2020: a Black woman in front of a line of armed police; Washington, D.C.

photo credit: Stephanie Kenner

In the trained eyes of American police, Black people are indomitable threats possessing Herculean strength and invincible skin. It does not matter the size of the Black person or the number of Black people they encounter, a full onslaught of force must be used when engaging us. Our civil liberties are bludgeoned with the same degree of violence as our bodies.

May 31, 2020: Protester walking away from police with shields; Washington, D.C.

photo credit: Shutterstock user: bgrocker

White allies/advocates/accomplices to Black lives are viewed as traitors to American law enforcement. They will break their bones, mace their faces, slam them to the pavement and cuff their hands. But in most cases of white dissent to police violence of Black bodies, whiteness still functions as a lifesaver. Allies and advocates very rarely become hashtags, which is what separates them from the names they advocate for.

May 29, 2020: State patrol standing guard in Minnesota days after George Floyd’s killing;

Minneapolis Minnesota

photo credit: Shutterstock user: MUNSHOTS

American police come prepared to fight protests centered around Black lives. They understand that the same violence that leads to Black folks taking to the streets in demonstration, is the same violence they will promptly enact to quell Black outrage. It is difficult to avoid further bullying a people when you believe their identity to be second-class and have been trained to descend upon them as such.

American police respond to guilt by doubling down on the very thing that makes them guilty, and those who stand in opposition to their abuse are also subject to the wrath of their culpability.

May 31, 2020: Kneeling in protest of deaths of George Floyd and Michael Ramos;

Austin, TX

photo credit: Vic Hinterlang

Black and Brown Americans often encounter the exact same type of violence from American police, and sometimes the incidents occur within the same span of time. Systemic racism and xenophobia are not as distant relatives as the bloodlines of victims might suggest.

June 23, 2020: Metropolitan Police of Washington vs peaceful protesters; Washington, D.C.

photo credit: Allison C. Bailey

Amid a public health crisis, American police have aggressively engaged with Black Lives Matter protesters without wearing protective face coverings. Capitol police who squared off with unmasked white supremacists showed up on the scene in compliance with CDC guidelines, despite being at risk of virus transmission from rioters.

The summer of uprising did not contribute to a spike in coronavirus cases, but the insurrection has yielded cases of COVID-19. In the midst of chaos, whiteness is still covered even when it poses the greatest threat.

January 6, 2021: Proud Boy members inside US Capitol

photo credit: Alex Gakos

It has been suggested that much of the actions that took place during the Capitol siege were coordinated efforts with local law enforcement. It is hard to argue images of barricades being removed, officer selfies with insurgents and candid photos in the offices and hallways of the Capitol. The photo symbolism of white men standing triumphantly after ransacking the venue where American lawmakers work on how to govern this country is the shining example of law enforcement giving deference to whiteness.

The images show a sign of consent that came from the top down.

About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be

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