LI civil rights leaders, activists say police response in D.C. was double commonplace

This story was told by John Asbury, Denise M. Bonilla, Daysi Calavia-Robertson, Craig Schneider and Dandan Zou. It was written by Schneider.

Long Island civil rights activists and Black Lives Matter activists have blown up the police response to a mob that broke into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, claiming they saw double standards compared to police brutality protests that included increased police presence, Tear gas, arrests, and rubber had bullets.

The Capitol was besieged Wednesday by supporters of President Donald Trump during a joint congressional session, forcing elected officials to crouch under desks and put on gas masks. Police tried unsuccessfully to hold off the crowd that Trump had suggested in an earlier speech.

Dexter Hedgepeth, who was taking part in the August 28 march on the National Mall in Washington, remembered seeing barricades, police cars and officers on the streets. The march drew thousands commemorating the 1963 Civil Rights March led by Martin Luther King Jr.

“The police presence was strong. … They knew they were there. They knew where to go,” said Hedgepeth, 37, from Freeport. “Just watch [TV on Wednesday]It seemed like there was nothing that was forbidden. “

Protesters clash with law enforcement officials as they storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday. Photo credit: Bloomberg / Eric Lee

Bruce Hall, who was at the same civil rights protest, said he watched TV in disbelief on Wednesday.

“The government was prepared for us when we came down in August,” recalled Hall. “We couldn’t even get near the Capitol.”

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Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism in Syosset, said she was angry after Trump forcibly cleared a peaceful crowd in Washington using tear gas and other riot control tactics so he could take a picture during the George Floyd protests in June himself is holding a Bible in front of a church.

“People were hanging around and suddenly they were being pushed and thrown to the ground,” said Gross. “People were violently dispersed for no reason.”

She said she was particularly disgusted after seeing how police treated people during other protests. “The way these children’s gloves deal with the situation is completely irresponsible, inexplicable and people have to be held accountable,” said Gross.

Sharod “Jay Vegas” White, 38, a Freeport resident who has participated in multiple protests against Black Lives Matter in Washington, said the images of rioters storming the Capitol are in stark contrast to the “peaceful and respectful” There are demonstrations in which he took part last summer.

White was particularly appalled by someone who appeared to be a police officer taking selfies with people who had trespassed and vandalized.

“Instead of arresting them? In our nation’s capital? It’s outrageous,” White said.

Tracey Edwards, NAACP regional director on Long Island, said that while the police treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters is different from that of the group that attacked the Capitol, it is inappropriate to compare.

“What was going on in Washington was domestic terrorism that tried to overthrow our government,” she said. “Everyone has a right to peaceful protest. This was not a protest.”

And, “If anyone thinks that if these people were people of color, it would have been the same result, joke yourself,” she added.

Edwards said there was a need to investigate who was allowed to march to the Capitol and what would be required, citing their own experience of marches and the need to plan with Homeland Security and all Washington police departments.

“You have to uncover the truth and tell people the truth about what this was and who was a part of it,” she said. “You will have to find out how far that has gone.”

Edwards said she would like Trump to move against those destroying federal monuments in June in response to Black Lives Matter protests. This order included up to 10 years in prison.

“Let’s see if they’ll use it on the domestic terrorists,” Edwards said.

The response follows months of protests across the country last summer against the killing of unarmed blacks like Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

The vast majority of demonstrations related to the Black Lives Matter movement were non-violent, according to the US Crisis Monitor, a joint Princeton University project. In more than 93% of all movement-related demonstrations, protesters did not engage in violence or destructive activities, according to the project.

Erin Biener, 40, from Levittown, is a team member at LI Peaceful Protest, an activism group that organized more than a dozen Black Lives Matter protests on Long Island last summer.

“You could have taken care of it [Wednesday’s] domestic terrorists with the same strength they use in dealing with us, with people protesting for equality for our black citizens, but they just haven’t, “said Biener.

Biener suspects that the different reactions are due to the race.

“Could be [it’s] because the majority of law enforcement agencies and the so-called “judicial system” identify more closely with “White America”, with the agendas, morals and ideologies of these rioters, “Biener said.” Or maybe it’s because they’ve been mentally trained to feel more threatened by blacks, indigenous people, or colored people. “

There were about 300 civil rights protests and Trump rallies in Suffolk County last summer, none of which resulted in property damage or significant civil unrest, Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. Hart attributed the generally peaceful nature of the protests to the department’s efforts to reach out to group leaders and ensure that both sides understood each other’s expectations.

“A lot to us is our relationship with the community,” said Hart. “Ultimately, we want people to have a safe space to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Nassau has also seen mostly peaceful protests.

“As of June 2020, we have monitored approximately 160 protests with over 40,000 demonstrators without violence and with a minimal number of arrests,” Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement. “From the start of the demonstrations, Nassau County Police engaged individuals in a conversation to make sure the demonstrators knew that as long as the protests were peaceful, we were going to protect everyone’s rights to the first changes.”

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