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‘White privilege at its finest’: local activists react to law enforcement during Capitol siege

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media
Wilmington police in riot gear block part of Market Street during a racial justice protest last year

Many— including President-elect Joe Biden— have pointed out the difference between the police response to white pro-Trump extremists invading the U.S. Capitol last week and the response to racial justice protests last year.


Mahkieb Booker leads the Black Lives Matter group based in Wilmington, and helped organize several protests in the city this summer. He saw the police response to the armed insurrection by mostly white Trump supporters last week as “white privilege at its finest.”

“They helped a Caucasian lady down the stairs holding her hand,” he said. “No one held Sandra Bland’s hand. No one held Breonna Taylor’s hand.”

Booker says the weak and in some instances friendly police response to the mostly white rioters did not surprise him. 

“When Caucasians protest, [police] see it as almost a friendly rally,” Booker said. “It’s like, OK, they’ll protest and then they’ll go home and everything will be fine."

Booker does not expect the insurrection to be a wake-up call about law enforcement in America. He says he’ll keep pushing for change—but does not think much if any will come from last week’s events.Black Mothers in Power, a campaign through Network Delaware to improve Black maternal health, was also involved in organizing racial justice protests last year. 

Lovely Lacey, operations coordinator for the group, says she was “scared but not shocked” by the events at the Capitol last week. 

“The State ‘serves and protects’ the delusion of white supremacy so fiercely it refuses to act swiftly and justly when homegrown terrorists walk right through it's doors,” Lacey wrote in an emailed response to questions Wednesday. 

Lacey emphasized that the Black Lives Matter protests across the country last year are not comparable to a deadly insurrection in the halls of Congress. 

“The protests for Black Lives were for the most part peaceful, yet peaceful protestors were met with armed resistance and agitation by the State,” she wrote. “This is a stark reminder on full view for the world to see that white people from all walks of life in America can violently plan and execute an insurrection without excessive preparation from the State, and not be met with state-sponsored violence simply because they are white.”

President-elect Biden said in a speech in Wilmington last week he believed Black Lives Matter protesters would have been treated differently by police. He called this disparity “totally unacceptable.”

Lacey says the insurrection may have opened the eyes of those previously unaffected by the potential for white supremacist violence, a reality she says Black and brown people live with constantly. 

“More people can see the myth of white supremacy is built into the fabric of our lives and woven so tightly into the systems that make up this country, that we now have to contend with who we actually are versus who we truly want to be,” Lacey wrote. 

Several Capitol Police officers have been suspended following Wednesday’s riot. The chair of the House subcommittee investigating the police response has said a number of other officers are under investigation.

This story has been updated.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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