Over the last 24 hours, disparities in policing have been on full display. It leaves people to wonder how a group of majority-white Trump supporters could storm the Capitol, while protesters for Black lives faced more police force throughout the summer.
People have also questioned whether this advances the needle for those fighting for police reform.
Dallas Civil Rights Attorney David Henderson watched as Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol, and he couldn’t help but think how Black protesters might’ve been handled in the same situation. He represents a group of Dallas protesters who were detained on the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge back in June while marching in response to the death of George Floyd.
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“People in Dallas were arrested for breaching sidewalks. I saw people breaching the Capitol building yesterday who were not arrested,” said Henderson.
The disparities were glaring. Tens of thousands of people watched in real-time. Still, Henderson is not convinced the televised contrast will move the needle on police reform. He said there’s not been enough focus on the role policing played. Rather, the focus shifted very quickly to the role of the current administration.
“You can’t fix what you won’t acknowledge. And I didn’t see anything about yesterday’s events that led me to believe that authorities in Dallas or any place else in the United States are more willing to recognize the problems that we have with American policing,” he said.
Longtime Dallas-based activist and organizer Changa Higgins has done the groundwork for years on police and criminal justice reform. He was instrumental in the creation of Dallas’ new Police Oversight Board. He watched with the rest of the world, as rioters walked the halls of the Capitol.
“I’ve been out on the streets before protesting and pushing for police reform, for criminal justice reform and for other issues,” said Higgins. “I’ve been in a lot of peaceful protests where the police were way more aggressive toward protesters than I saw yesterday with the storming of the Capitol.”
He’s also had a position at the table with law enforcement during reform discussions and said what we witnessed Wednesday should not come as a surprise, especially to those who wear the badge.
“It’s something that a lot of police departments, police chiefs and leadership across the country already know. It’s about doing something about it at this point,” he said. “Policies can change, but policy change without culture change within the Dallas Police Department or any police department across America does not work.”
Now that the images and video are out there for the world to see, and the difference in enforcement was blatant in this instance, one question is whether we can expect change.
“Only if you’re paying attention and only if your intention is to see things for what they really are,” said Higgins. “If you can’t see it now, what people have been out on the streets protesting about and talking about, if you can’t see it now, you’re making a choice not to see it.”