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Sharpton's march on Washington and the Capitol invasion

Two marches: the Black Lives Matter March on Washington on Aug. 28 and the recent thug “march” on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. I attended and photographed the August march as a photographer in the media pool. Comparisons are odious. But the recent travesty in Washington spurs me to reflect on both events.

Lest we forget other events, marches and protests: The tear-gassed Black Lives Matter protesters last summer on H Street so Trump could display an upside-down Bible in front of St. John’s Church. Or police in June wearing heavy riot gear as they formed a military-style blockade on the Lincoln Memorial stairs, menacing peaceful protesters who had assembled after George Floyd’s death.

They weren’t protecting a statue of Lincoln in the alcove above. Did they really believe there were dangerous protesters down below? Who ordered them to stand on the steps like that?

Why this overreaction by police to peaceful protesters? And it’s tiring for Black Lives Matter to receive such a bad rap. Black Lives Matter is an idea. A philosophy. It’s all kinds of people who understand the movement. People of all stripes. They’ve known it all along. Racism has got to go.

It’s a matter of leaders. Compare the two leaders of the March on Washington and the mob riot on Jan. 6. One leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton. The other, President Donald Trump.

I had to go through hell, security-wise, to get into the Aug. 28 march sponsored by Sharpton and the National Action Network. Thousands were there, stretching down the mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol. Everyone masked. Extra protection with sunglasses. Sanitizer everywhere, temperatures taken, barriers, lines. Social distancing. Everyone patient while boiling in the sun. And where was Sharpton? Calmly praying at the top of the memorial. Waiting to speak. He didn’t need a Bible in his hands. After he spoke we quietly followed him, thousands of us, to the MLK Memorial down the mall.

Not Donald Trump: His “march” on Jan. 6 was a livid and crazed incitement to violence. Barely anyone wore masks. In fact, they’d been told not to on social media. Instead they carried Molotov cocktails and tasers. And where were the police as his followers invaded the Capitol?

Karen Irwin, a D.C. activist who protects the H street memorial fence which emerged after the June tear-gassing, emailed me: “They took selfies with the police who looked the other way. We all knew they were planning to breach the Capitol. We just didn’t realize the police would let them.”

And where was the leader of this march? Viewing it on TV, reports say. Trump was excited about the violent mob he saw on the screen. Good stuff! He wondered why his staff didn’t share his enthusiasm! Had he sent word for police to stand down? For no back-up forces to be sent until it was too late?

Take some more selfies!

“The cops were really cool!” said one thug afterwards.

In a cruel turn-about, a Capitol police officer was beaten to death by Trump’s mob. With a fire extinguisher. Another officer was crushed in a door, blood emerging from his mouth as he cried for help. At least 50 other officers were injured and some required hospitalization.

D.C. Capitol Police management always meets before planned events to make risk assessments. Although Trump’s riot of crazed minions was scheduled and advertised for weeks on social media, Capitol Police management either minimized or ignored the threat. Did they figure white folks couldn’t be up to any trouble? That putting up a few barrier fences would do? Or maybe it was something else. Maybe someone told them to be soft on the mob. After all, they were good people, right?

White privilege. That’s what it was. And is. Trump’s mob thought they were invincible. They thought the police would let them through. Some police appeared to do so. But even with inadequate backup, most were undaunted, including the Black officer who, reportedly armed only with a baton, thought quickly and lured a mob away from the nearby Senate chamber door as they pursued him up the stairs.

The March on Washington and Trump’s January riot of thugs were both about our electoral process. That’s ironic. The last thing Reverend Al said in August was that we must vote. We fulfilled that in November. Trump’s insidious band of thugs wanted to take that away from us. They killed for it.

Well, they didn’t make it. And they won’t.

Susan Lloyd lives in Ashland.