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J20 vs J6: Double standards for dissent and defense of State Violence

January 20, 2021

We are all familiar with what happened on January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol. White Nationalists stormed the US Capitol building, destroying property along the way and using violence against people, resulting in several deaths. There has been a constantly flow of news since that day and it will be part of the narrative for the Inauguration as well.

However, four years ago today, there was an action during the inauguration of Donald Trump, where no government buildings were under siege, but some property was damaged. This protest is less known, even though it involved people who identified as anti-fascists.

One glaring difference between these two events so far, is that the January 20, 2017 (from here on referred to as J20) activists were facing up to 70 years in jail, while those involved in the January 6, 2021 (from here referred to as J6) action are facing lesser chargers or are already having charges dismissed by some judges.

The other fundamental difference it that the J6 protester, mostly White Nationalists, who are contesting the 2020 election and who are mostly Trump supporters. The J20 protesters are not connected to any political party, they were not contesting the the results of the election, nor defending Hillary Clinton. The J20 activists took action four years ago to denounce fascism and to protest the incoming Trump administration, which was not shy about the White Supremacist, xenophobic, misogynist policies they were going to promote.

Since, the general public is less familiar with the J20 protesters, here is a link that provides a good overview of the harsh sentencing they were facing and how they beat it. GRIID had reported on the harsh sentencing that the J20 protesters faced on several occasions, like our post in July of 2017.

Since the J6 storming of the US Capitol, there have been numerous comparisons to how the police responded to those who forced their way into the Capitol and how the police all across the US have responded to all of the Black Lives Matter rebellions last summer. These comparison are fair, since they point out how White Nationalists were able to storm the US Capitol with minimal harm done to them, while BLM protesters were killed, beaten, pepper-sprayed and shot with rubber bullets. The comparisons are stark.

However, these comparisons are fairly obvious and we should not be content with just making this point and not talking about the larger issue of State Violence. It would be easy to pat ourselves on the back and say, “see, when the right does it, they get special treatment, but when the left does it, they get brutalized.”

We need to start talking about State Violence and how the State can do anything they want to people who don’t follow the rules…..rules determined by those who have power. This is not a new thing, so whether we are talking about the 1798 Sedition Act, the 1918 Sedition Act, the Palmer Raids, the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee, COINTELPRO, the Patriot Act or the recent proposals coming from GOP State lawmakers and the incoming Biden administration.

The fact that politicians on both sides are calling for new domestic anti-terrorism laws should concern us all, for several reasons. First, the history of domestic terrorism laws has disproportionately been used against Black, Indigenous, Latin, immigrant, Arab-Americans, Muslims, and other communities that are fighting for a more just world. Second, these kinds of laws are always passed during what are often framed as “periods of a national crisis,” thus taking advantage of moments when the public is vulnerable to swift and harsh state responses. 

Third, whether it is the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard or state and local law enforcement, we need to come to terms with the fact that every one of the groups listed have engaged in state terrorism. When cops murder Black people, that is state terrorism. When the National Guard is brought in to put down an uprising, that is state terrorism. When ICE agents round up members of the undocumented community, that is state terrorism. When the FBI targets Black organizations, that is state terrorism. 

Lastly, when people, who are not normally the targets of state violence, remain neutral or support existing/increases in state repression and state terrorism, that makes it easier for the state to get away with the violence they perpetrate against people every day! 

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