Cops' Lazy Response to Sedition Makes a Great Case for Defunding Them
Police never crack down on fellow travelers
On October 3, 2013, a young Black woman from Connecticut named Miriam Carey was in Washington, DC with her 13-month-old daughter. According to The Washington Post, Carey had a family, a condo, a stable job, and plans for the weekend.
At some point, she ended up at a security checkpoint near the White House. When attempting to make a u-turn to get back onto the street, Secret Service put a barrier in front of her. Carey panicked and tried to drive away. Secret Service and US Capitol Police killed her as she tried to escape, firing 26 bullets while Carey’s baby was still in the car.
But as January 6, 2021 showed, the problem isn’t that US Capitol police don’t know how to show restraint — it’s that they selectively apply restraint to like-minded fellow travelers. It’s hard to view the failure to secure the capitol as anything but intentional, given that the US Capitol is under the jurisdiction of multiple municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies including the Capitol Police as well as DC Metropolitan Police, US Park Police, the US Marshals, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, the Secret Service, the FBI Police, US Military Police, US Customs and Border Protection, the DC National Guard, and many others.
I’ve done my best to show a video timeline of events as they occurred. All of these videos show not only unprecedented restraint from police, but in some cases, outright cooperation.
(A US Capitol Police officer taking a selfie with a Trump supporter who breached the doors of the US Capitol while lawmakers were inside. Photo is screenshot from livestream of breach.)
The Siege of the US Capitol
On January 6, thousands of President Trump’s supporters converged for a fascist rally on Capitol Hill, the day a joint session of Congress was set to conduct its Constitutional certification of Electoral College results. Trump encouraged his diehards to march to the capitol building and to show “strength.” Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, encouraged Trump supporters to engage in “trial by combat.” Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said “we’re coming for you” in reference to lawmakers.
The word “fascist” is necessary to describe the rally, because in addition to the fascistic threats to subvert an election, newly minted Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-Illinois) was heard saying “Hitler was right” (in reference to a quote where he said youth are the future, because apparently he’s the only person who ever said that making it necessary to quote him).
Some of the rally attendees wore merchandise made for the specific day, including a man in a sweatshirt that read “MAGA — CIVIL WAR — JANUARY 6, 2021.” At some point during the day, pipe bombs were found outside the US Capitol as well as outside the headquarters of both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. At least two of those bombs were meant to explode and cause harm, according to Fox News producer Jake Gibson (no relation).
The moment the assault on the Capitol began, a swarm of Trump supporters were met by just five (5) US Capitol Police officers behind a barricade, who were easily overwhelmed. At around the one-minute mark of this video, Trump supporters start assaulting officers. Eventually the officers are seen running away. Not one shot was fired.
In this video embedded below, a slew of Trump supporters are pushing on another layer of barricades intended to separate the crowd from the capitol building. Police not only didn’t fire a shot, they simply moved the barricades aside and let the crowd through.
In this video, the crowd, which has reached the capitol steps, continues to push on barricades until one rioter gets through and beckons others to join him. The crowd pushes on the barricades and the police retreat once more, ceding the remaining ground to the army of Trump supporters. Not one shot was fired.
In this video, Trump supporters who have breached the final barricades to reach the Capitol’s exterior start breaking a window with a riot shield and climbing inside. Despite the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government being literally under siege, not one shot was fired.
At the front door of the US Capitol, Trump supporters breached the entrance after punching officers in their way, and stealing one of their riot shields. Officers once again retreated further into the building. Again, not one shot was fired.
The assaulting of officers continued as the coup supporters moved further into the capitol building. This video shows a lone US Capitol Police officer frantically pick up the baton he dropped and swing it in vain at the Trump supporters who were menacing him. He retreated up the stairs to join a small handful of other officers attempting to hold back the mob. At this point, there were still no shots fired.
The Shooting of Ashli Babbitt
Capitol Police didn’t use their firearms until Trump supporters reached the door of the House chamber. Ashli Babbitt, who flew from San Diego to Washington, DC specifically to participate in the January 6 coup attempt, got shot in the neck as she was trying to reach the House floor while lawmakers were still present.
"As protesters were forcing their way toward the House Chamber where Members of Congress were sheltering in place, a sworn USCP employee discharged their service weapon, striking an adult female," the US Capitol police wrote in a public statement.
Babbitt was a rabid supporter of President Trump, and often recorded videos of herself ranting hysterically about California politicians and undocumented immigrants. She was also a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has inspired numerous acts of terrorism and racist violence across the country. In the last the last tweet she wrote before her death, Babbitt said “nothing will stop us….they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!” (dark to light is a QAnon slogan)
Radio host Garrison Davis dug into Babbitt’s tweets and found that she had completely bought into QAnon by April of 2020. While news outlets mentioned that Babbitt was an Air Force veteran, Babbitt also appears to have been a law enforcement officer. In one particular exchange about female cops, Babbitt doesn’t deny that she was a police officer.
It isn’t a stretch to say that Ashli Babbitt willingly traveled across the country to sacrifice her life for the cause of sedition — a cause she fervently believed was a just one given the information she was consuming. Babbitt’s radicalization and subsequent death is a tragic example of why combating online disinformation campaigns like QAnon is so critical.
White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other terrorists given a pass by cops
The fact that Babbitt was the only terrorist who got shot during the siege of the US Capitol is remarkable, especially considering the actions of others who stormed the capitol with her. Another man named Richard “Bigo” Barnett came to DC from Arkansas fully expecting to die.
“I came into this world kicking and screaming, covered in someone else’s blood,” Barnett wrote in a post on his Facebook account in which he also proudly identified as a white nationalist. “I’m not afraid to go out the same way.”
Barnett somehow made his way to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, put his feet up on her desk, posed for a photo, and stole a piece of mail from her desk as a souvenir before making it back outside and posing for another photo and even doing an interview with the New York Times. One Twitter sleuth found a man with the same name and from the same city receiving a PPP loan for over $9,000.
Another viral photo showed a terrorist clad in head-to-toe tactical gear, wearing a vest and a sidearm and holding a handful of flex cuffs. It’s unknown whether or not the man was ever arrested.
Elsewhere in the building, US Capitol Police were seen taking photographs with Trump supporters who had since pushed their way through barricades, breached the doors of the capitol, and assaulted officers.
$2.8 trillion in counterterrorism funding for what?
By 11 PM, DC police only arrested 52 insurrectionists according to Politico reporter Heather Caygle. To compare, Wisconsin Capitol Police arrested more than 120 people (myself included) over just a few days in the summer of 2013 for the crime of singing protest songs in the capitol rotunda. All of us went peacefully, and none of us tried to storm legislative chambers.
But you don’t even need to go back that far to find examples of excessive policing of protesters. In the summer of 2020, the numerous police forces with jurisdiction over DC met Black Lives Matter with an excessive display of force that included riot cops, armored vehicles, and even a military helicopter. Forbes reported that between May 30 and June 2, police arrested 427 protesters in DC.
As many observed on Twitter, the restraint shown to a mob that attacked one of our three branches of government is a strange example of how skilled police are in not using lethal force. It makes the lethal response of Miriam Carey for making a u-turn that much more egregious.
Now is the time to ask the question of, if not to stop something as awful as a terrorist attack on the US Capitol, why have a sprawling, militarized police state? The US government has spent $2.8 trillion on counterterrorism funding since 9/11, yet the Capitol was overtaken by Trump supporters in just a few hours. Local police have received $7.4 billion in military equipment through the 1033 program since the 1990s. But why have all of that if it’s only going to be deployed on nonviolent protests like Black Lives Matter — an estimated 93% of which have been peaceful?
It’s good the media is outraged at the restraint police showed the mob of Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol. Sustaining that outrage can and should sustain the conversation about defunding police, and forcing them to figure out how to do their jobs without shooting and killing and maiming.