Rep. Marilyn Strickland Calls Out The Erasure Of Black Capitol Workers Impacted By Riot

A mirror was held up to the United States as a violent insurrection took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Rioters, incited by President Donald Trump and his refusal to engage in a peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden, stormed the Capitol building, interrupting Congress’ joint session to certify the Electoral College vote.

The riot left at least five dead and resulted in at least 83 arrests. Rioters were seen on camera taking selfies with law enforcement. As the events unfolded, it was clear that the crowd’s whiteness was saving them from a similar fate the thousands of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters faced in 2020, both blocks away from the Capitol building and nationwide.

Several lawmakers are calling for the removal of Trump and top Capitol security chiefs. Capitol Hill Police Chief Steven Sund has resigned, but accountability doesn’t end there. Lawmakers, activists and citizens alike are also calling for the rioters to be held accountable. 

Newly elected Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) told HuffPost that there needs to be more arrests. 

“I think there were two things in play. The Capitol police were definitely outnumbered dramatically, but if you look at some of the footage you saw on TV, they were almost treating the protesters like tourists,” she said. “What if they were African American? What if they were Latino? What if they were Asian? Would the response have been different? How quickly would they have called in the National Guard? There are a lot of questions that people have.”

The police’s response to rioters who were violent, entitled and white versus peaceful Black protesters wasn’t the only juxtaposition on display on Wednesday. CNN reporter Daniella Micaela tweeted a video of Black Capitol workers cleaning up the destruction insurrectionists left behind. Many pointed out the symbolism it held, saying Black Americans are historically the ones working to correct the damage racists cause. 

It definitely is a very striking image of the contrast of here we are, the foundation, the backbone. People come in and do what they want, and we’re still having to clean up after folks,” Strickland, who is the first Black elected member of Congress for the state of Washington and one of the first Korean American women elected to Congress, said, noting that many Capitol police officers are also Black. “What I want to say is there is dignity in all work and we have to respect all workers, no matter what they do, but it’s a pretty striking image of watching people come in and create mayhem, and then here we are cleaning up after them to make sure that the House floor and that the Capitol is habitable again for people to come in there and do the peoples’ business.”

Strickland returned to her office on Thursday and said she noticed the fatigue in these workers.

“As I walk around Capitol Hill, when I see the police officers and I see staff, people are tired, but I am looking them in the eye and saying, ‘Thank you so much for being here and thank you for what you tried to do yesterday,’” she said. “People are feeling unappreciated, probably even more so.”

Strickland said that she was in the building from the beginning of the lockdown, watching the violence and destruction play out. 

“They had broken windows and basically just rushed through security,” she said. “They were in some of the office buildings and we just watched this thing unfold. It just seemed completely unreal. Then you just watched security and police completely lose control because they were so outnumbered, and so it was just one of those things that we knew that Wednesday was going to be a long day, but we didn’t expect it to unfold like that.”

Trump’s dogwhistles aided these insurrectionists in a national security breach of the U.S. Capitol, the first since 1814. There are urgently lingering questions about why Capitol police turned down federal assistance amid the siege and why they were severely underprepared, despite pro-Trump activists’ — including QAnon, white supremacists and the Proud Boys — online conversations about this insurrection taking place prior to Wednesday’s attack. This attack was a long time coming.

Congress returned to finish the vote until about 3 a.m. Thursday. Though they were able to successfully certify President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ victory, Wednesday’s unprecedented events left many fuming at the double standard of policing Black protesters regularly face by officers in SWAT gear in comparison to the more relaxed and ill-equipped approach from officers on Wednesday. Rioters were able to fly Confederate flags and present a noose outside of the Capitol unchecked. Rather than being met with tear gas and violence, the mob, who was actively breaching national security, were met with retreating officers. 

During a press conference Wednesday, Biden called the insurrectionists domestic terrorists. A chorus of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. Facebook has locked Trump’s account until at least Inauguration Day, while Twitter temporarily locked his page.

The FBI has called for information leading to the arrest of those involved in Wednesday’s mob, despite many of their identities being available on social media, news reports and video footage.

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