Capitol chaos: Inside the volatile days leading up to Biden's inauguration
TORONTO -- It’s a new era in America. The country has a new Commander-in-Chief. Joe Biden, a career politician, will try to bind the wounds of an exceedingly fractured society. Donald Trump may be gone from the White House, but the views he has unearthed in America are not.
“For five years, he has been speaking narratives that are racist, xenophobic, exclusionary and violent,” says Global Hate Crime Expert Barbera Perry. “It didn't take him long to build a really strong core of people who were swayed by his very early references to the risks associated with immigration, with Muslims, with Latinos, with Blacks, with trans people,” she said. Perry attributes the recent rise of the far right in both the United States and Canada to leaders like Trump.
That rise came to a violent head on Jan. 6, when thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Amongst the crowd, ultra-nationalists, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and white supremacists trying to violently interrupt Congress, from solidifying the 2020 presidential election results.
Just hours before, Trump was down the street at the White House, riling up his supporters. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats,” he said to a massive crowd. “We will never give up. We will never concede.”
Despite Trump’s defiant words and far-right wings groups assembling online, the police in Washington were not prepared. Evan Balgord is the Executive Director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. He tracks ultra-right wing groups online, and says there’s no way the police didn’t see this coming.
“When we heard agencies in United States say they had no knowledge, no information that was going to be that bad. That's not true. I mean, it's really obvious and really prevalent if you kind of follow these places on here.”
His team is trying to identify Canadians that were at the Capitol riot as well. They are scouring online photos and message boards to find clues. A Canadian flag was prominently displayed in the Washington crowd, alongside Confederate posters, and QAnon conspiracy symbols. In Canada, so-called ‘Canadians for Trump’ gatherings were also held in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Red Deer, Alta. that same day.
Balgord also points out that police responses are measured, depending on who is protesting. A recent report found that police in the United States are three times more likely to use force against left-wing protesters versus right-wing protesters. Non-profit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED), commissioned the report, which monitors political violence around the world,
The tapered police response was no surprise to Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who teaches on race and criminal justice, at the University of Toronto. “If you're Black or if you're white, there are two very different Americas,” he says. He reflected on the forceful police presence in many Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
“The police officers on horses, the dogs, the rubber bullets, the tear gas, and so many of those demonstrators knew that they had to conduct themselves in a certain way in order to protect themselves,” he says. “They couldn't be inciting violence in the way that the mob that stormed Capitol Hill was… that for me, again, just demonstrates how differently Black and white people are treated in America.”