A cop taking a selfie with a trespasser in the Capitol
A cop taking a selfie with a trespasser in the Capitol

“Vio­lence is as Amer­i­can as cher­ry pie,” incar­cer­at­ed activist Jamil Abdul­lah Al-Amin intoned more than fifty-three years ago, pro­vok­ing out­rage from con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­ta­tors across the land. Al-Amin, for­mer­ly known as H. Rap Brown, should have drawn dis­tinc­tions in his rap. Right wing vio­lence in Amer­i­ca is endur­ing, intim­i­dat­ing and usu­al­ly goes unpunished.

Fresh mem­o­ries of the far right’s U.S. Capi­tol insur­rec­tion, occu­pa­tion and trash­ing caused me to flip back to a July 27th, 2020 tweet by Don­ald Trump:

“Anar­chists, Agi­ta­tors or Pro­tes­tors who van­dal­ize or dam­age our Fed­er­al Cour­t­house in Port­land, or any Fed­er­al Build­ings in any of our cities or states, will be pros­e­cut­ed under our recent­ly re-enact­ed Statutes & Mon­u­ments Act. Min­i­mum Ten Years In Prison. Don’t Do It!

Trump deployed fed­er­al agents who hunt­ed down demon­stra­tors far from the cour­t­house, mak­ing extra-legal arrests of folks off the street. When Black Lives Mat­ter protests came to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., last June, police from twen­ty states were mobi­lized. Prison guards from Arkansas were deployed. A pha­lanx of fuzz, in Nin­ja War­rior out­fits, stood guard on steps of the Lin­coln Memorial.

By con­trast, the U.S. Capi­tol on Wednes­day was sparse­ly defend­ed. The 45th Pres­i­dent egged on the mob. For­mer New York May­or (and fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor) Rudy Giu­liani called for “tri­al by com­bat.” Of the arrests even­tu­al­ly made, more than eighty per­cent were for cur­few vio­la­tion (although Face­book and Insta­gram pho­tos are being used to track down the worse occu­piers and trashers).

“I am shak­ing my head about the U.S. Capi­tol Police,” Heather Foley, wid­ow of the late House Speak­er Tom Foley, said in an email.

She used to run admin­is­tra­tion for the House.

Would the Capi­tol have been left unde­fend­ed in a Black Lives Mat­ter protest? Would pro­test­ers have been gen­tly escort­ed out? The answer, deliv­ered Thurs­day by Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden, was a resound­ing “No.”

It has been so for six­ty years of protests for civ­il rights and peace.

The recent death of Con­gress­man John Lewis revived films of Alaba­ma State Troop­ers bru­tal­ly attach­ing peace­ful marchers cross­ing the Edmund Pet­tis Bridge in Sel­ma Alaba­ma, named for a Con­fed­er­ate gen­er­al). Lewis would point to where his skull was cracked. He also saved a Herblock car­toon from the Wash­ing­ton Post, iden­ti­fy­ing his assailants as “Alaba­ma State Storm Troopers.”

Right wing vio­lence has not infre­quent­ly met with offi­cial approval.

A peace­ful post-Kent State 1970 anti­war protest head­ed for New York City’s finan­cial dis­trict. The marchers passed a con­struc­tion site. Hard­hat set upon them, beat­ing and injur­ing dozens. New York’s Finest stood watching.

A few days lat­er, Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon (who would lat­er resign in dis­grace) wel­comed the hard­hats’ lead­ers to the Oval Office. He had recent­ly described pro­test­ers against the ”incur­sion” of U.S. forces into Cam­bo­dia as “bums.”

The Nation­al Guard killing in cold blood of four stu­dents at Kent State, and killing of two Jack­son State Col­lege stu­dents by city and state police in Mis­sis­sip­pi, pro­duced zero prosecutions.

Dit­to for what a com­mis­sion report described as a “police riot” at the 1968 Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­ven­tion in Chica­go. Instead, sev­en protest lead­ers were indicted.

The pat­tern of vio­lence has continued.

The nation’s most lethal and vicious ask of domes­tic ter­ror­ism, the 1994 fed­er­al build­ing bomb­ing in Okla­homa City, was per­pe­trat­ed by right-wing mili­tia types, one leader from Michi­gan. A quar­ter cen­tu­ry lat­er, Michi­gan mili­tia types plot­ted the kid­nap­ping, “tri­al” and exe­cu­tion of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Mili­tia folk have invad­ed the state capi­tol in East Lansing.

Out here, fol­low­ing pas­sage of gun safe­ty ini­tia­tives, they have packed heat – main­ly assault rifles – to protests at our capi­tol in Olympia.

At one protest, after hear­ing from Pam Roach and Matt Shea, armed Sec­ond Amend­ment enthu­si­asts invad­ed the State Sen­ate gallery.

For any­one cov­er­ing years of protest, the affin­i­ty between police and right-wing pro­test­ers can­not be ignored. The result is kid gloves treatment.

Going viral on Thurs­day were shots of cops mov­ing a bar­ri­er so demon­stra­tors could enter, and (lat­er) the pro­vi­sion for peace­ful departure.

All the while, Trump was watch­ing on tele­vi­sion and lik­ing what he saw.

Occa­sion­al­ly, crimes are so hor­ren­dous and pub­lic as to demand pun­ish­ment. Tim­o­thy McVeigh was exe­cut­ed after plan­ning a bomb that killed one hun­dred and six­ty-eight and injured more than six hundred.

The killer of repro­duc­tive health provider Dr. George Tiller was giv­en life after gun­ning down Tiller as he entered his Wichi­ta church. The alleged human who ran down a peace­ful demon­stra­tor in Char­lottesville was giv­en a long sentence.

The fas­cist gath­er­ing in Char­lottesville, with its torch­light parade and Nazi flags, was unde­ni­ably domes­tic terrorism.

Yet, we heard Trump say there were “very fine peo­ple on both sides.”

Trump lat­er defend­ed his dog whis­tle remark, say­ing: “If you look at what I said, you will see that that ques­tion was answered perfectly.”

The mili­tia move­ment spiked in the ear­ly 1990s, after the Waco con­fronta­tion. It had adher­ents here. A Chelan Coun­ty mili­tia group took up arms fear­ing that Unit­ed Nations infil­tra­tors were about to use the remote Nighthawk-Chopa­ka bor­der cross­ing west of Oroville.

Turned out it was an inter­a­gency anti-drug smug­gling exercise.

The vio­lent right is on the rise again, in this cor­ner of the country.

Wit­ness the pro­longed armed occu­pa­tion of the Mal­heur Nation­al Wildlife Refuge in East­ern Ore­gon. Its orga­niz­ers got off scot free.

The arson­ists who burned down Planned Parenthood’s clin­ic in Pull­man, after incen­di­ary remarks by Spokane politi­cians, have nev­er been brought to justice.

For anoth­er thir­teen days, it has offi­cial blessing.

After all, Trump gave Proud Boys the friend­ly advice to “stand back and stand by” dur­ing the first pres­i­den­tial debate of 2020 in September.

They deployed Wednes­day at the U.S. Capi­tol. In words of the Boys’ offi­cial Telegram chan­nel, “For sev­er­al hours our col­lec­tive strength had politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton in absolute ter­ror… The sys­tem would have you believe that you are alone. That’s why they want to ban all ‘rad­i­cals’ from social media. They want you to feel alone. But the truth is that you are not alone. We are everywhere.”

The Trump regime has not only winked at, but made use of right-wing intim­i­da­tion… all the while, with the Pres­i­dent and such allies as Fox News’ Tuck­er Carl­son warn­ing about and blam­ing all vio­lence on “anar­chists” and antifa.

The move­ment is tanned, rest­ed, ready and well-armed, as well as used to get­ting its way or get­ting away with what it does.

The Pres­i­dent-elect intro­duced his Jus­tice Depart­ment team on Thurs­day, with high empha­sis on the Civ­il Rights Division.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion will also face a home-grown domes­tic ter­ror­ism prob­lem. It can be wit­nessed at state cap­i­tals and the U.S. Capitol.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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