Last night’s mob violence and acts of domestic terrorism in Washington, D.C. were horrifying and sickening. The Fortune Society is infuriated at the lack of response by law enforcement to what was an insurrection and a terrorist attack on our very democracy. Despite causing multiple deaths, storming the nation’s most important building, breaking into the Senate chamber, shattering windows, interrupting the functioning of our government and threatening the lives of our top lawmakers, few of the perpetrators have been arrested so far.
For years, Black Lives Matters protesters speaking out against racism have been met with tear gas, rubber bullets, tanks, and military gear. Last summer, thousands of people were arrested for peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd. Additionally, the lack of preparation by law enforcement and delay in calling up the National Guard was unconscionable. In contrast, the Wisconsin National Guard was recently activated two days in advance of the unjust charging decision in the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Last night, racism in enforcing the law was on full display. While we understand that the investigation and attempts to identify these domestic terrorists are ongoing, most of the insurrectionists were escorted out unharmed and encouraged to go home.
This was an insurrection. It was an act of domestic terrorism unprecedented in our lifetimes. It has shocked other countries that look to us as the model of democracy and peaceful transition of presidential power.
People died. The Capitol was invaded and trashed and our elected leaders were put at risk of their lives as they were engaged in a peaceful transfer of power after a fair presidential election. Had this been a Black Lives Matter protest, protesters who simply refused an order to disburse would have been arrested in the thousands.
People impacted by the criminal legal system—many of Fortune’s own clients—have experienced law enforcement violence simply due to the color of their skin, and many others for actions that come nowhere near the crimes seen last night. This is not surprising or new, but reflects the deep vein of racism that has been present since our country’s founding and still shapes our criminal legal system today.
The insurrectionists and the leaders who incited them must be held accountable for their criminal acts. Moreover, in community with activists across the nation, the Fortune Society will keep fighting to end mass incarceration and to transform a racist criminal legal system.