Biden attacks double standards of policing as ex-security chief says response was ‘botched from the get-go’

Lawmakers call for firings over the US Capitol security breach

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 07 January 2021 23:25
Biden condemns ‘domestic terrorists’ who stormed Capitol building

In the wake of the insurrection at the US Capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers and members of the public are asking why the police response to the incursion appeared lax, particularly in comparison to Black Lives Matter marches over the summer.

On Thursday, Joe Biden gave a press briefing in which he acknowledged that Black Lives Matters supporters would have been treated “very differently” than the “domestic terrorists” supporting Donald Trump that stormed the building.

“No one can tell me that had it been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn't have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” he said.

The house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has called for the resignation of Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund following the attack. A spokesperson for Mr Sund said he has no plans to step down.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he plans to fire Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Mike Stenger when the Democrats take control of the Senate later this month, and Ms Pelosi said House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving would also be resigning.

Ohio Rep Tim Ryan agreed with the criticism, and said he planned to “get to the bottom” of why the Capitol police’s response appeared so unprepared for the assault.

Mr Ryan said initial video from the event suggested there were “strategic mistakes from the very beginning” that were made by the Capitol police responding to the attack.

Videos from the initial surge of protesters show masses of protesters approaching waist-high metal gates manned by a few officers. The protesters begin shoving on the gates, and men dressed in black jump into the fray, who begin shoving the gates and grabbing and fighting with police officers.

Other videos show officers opening the gates to allow the crowd in, and in one case, an officer posing for a selfie with one of the protesters at the doors of the Capitol building.

Mr Ryan promised there would be “imminent firings” at the Capitol police.

“I think it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be a number of people who are going to be without employment very, very soon,” Mr Ryan said, “because this is an embarrassment – both on behalf of the mob and the president, and the insurrection and the attempted coup, but also the lack of professional planning and dealing with what we knew was going to occur.”

The Capitol police released its first statement about the incursion on Thursday afternoon.

The statement said that rioters attacked the Capitol police while storming the building, and said that officers were simultaneously responding to a pair of suspected bombs at the RNC and DNC headquarters. It also said the officer who shot and killed a rioter, Ashli Babbitt, has been placed on administrative leave per the agency's protocols.

“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington DC.  Maintaining public safety in an open environment – specifically for First Amendment activities – has long been a challenge. The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities.  But make no mistake – these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior,” the statement said.

The statement did not address the videos showing officers opening gates for rioters or posing for photos with them.

There were 52 arrests made by DC Metro Police in the hours following the insurrection, even after the 6pm curfew in Washington DC began.

In comparison, there were more than 200 arrests made on 1 June alone during George Floyd protests in the city.

Critics of the police response have pointed out the disparity in police response between racial justice protesters and the Trump loyalists. In photos from the racial justice demonstrations, riot-gear clad National Guard and federal police can be seen in Freedom Plaza in Washington DC.

Others pointed to the infamous images of protesters being tear gassed by National Guard and US National Parks police to make room for Mr Trump to pose with an upside down Bible for a rally image.

Even Republicans have criticised the police response. Senator Lindsey Graham expressed shock at the security failure at the building, and went as far as calling for lethal force to have been used against the rioters.

“How could they fail so miserably? We’re 20 years from 9/11. Yesterday they could have blown the building up. They could have killed us all. They could have destroyed the government,” Mr Graham told Politico. “Warning shots should have been fired. Lethal force should have been used once they penetrated the seat of government.”

Mr Graham has referred to the rioters as “domestic terrorists”.

Former US secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, told Channel 4 News that the law enforcement response was “inadequate and ill planned”.

“It’s very clear to me from a law enforcement perspective this was botched from the get-go,” she said. 

Former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer told NBC News he believed the breach was caused by a lack of personnel on the scene at the time of the incursion.

“Sometimes when you don’t have enough personnel, you can't stand and fight a large crowd like that,” he said.

The US Capitol police has a force of 2,300 police. It is unclear how many were on duty the day of the insurrection

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