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‘Differential treatment between whites and blacks clearly exhibited in Capitol siege’, said policing expert


World is still recovering form the shock as Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, which was used by Chinese state media to delegitimise protests in Hong Kong last year. Read the following edited excerpt from interview with Gerry McNeilly, former head Office of the Independent Police Review Director of Ontario, Canada and former expert to Hong Kong’s police watchdog, on the security response, the comparison, and the differences in treating various treatments.

Gerry McNielly was a former head of police watchdog in Ontario, Canada. 

Question: Is the Capitol Police coming ill-prepared like Hong Kong police against such a rally that beats expectation, and should have stepped in earlier?

McNeilly:“In my opinion, the police in Washington knew about the crowd very early on. This march, this protest, this mob action have been in the planning stages for days and it was enforced and encouraged in the speech by President Trump.

Law enforcement had to have known that many people were coming into Washington to the so-called protest. Hotels were booked, the information was on social media and other information websites encouraging people to come and tell them what they are intended to do…In my opinion, the police and law enforcement generally must be held to account and must be made to explain what happened and why it happened.

It is sad that people died especially a law enforcement officer, but it was one unavoidable given that the police allowed this protest to take shape and allowed the protest to carry on the way it did.”


Question: Is the crowd behaviour in Hong Kong and the Capitol Hill comparable? Is it reasonable to put two events alongside, why or why not?

McNeilly: “Let me say that the crowd behaviour [in Capitol Hill] in my opinion is not comparable to what occurred in Hong Kong. The protests in Hong Kong was a long, on-going protests over months, fighting to preserve democracy and freedom instead.

On the other hand, in Washington, the attempts to overthrow Congress was in my opinion to ferment insurrection, to enable a coup and attempts to overthrow the government and to subvert democracy and freedom, to try to keep a President in power- a president, who by all official verification lost the presidency. It my be remembered that the majority of Americans who voted, voted for Biden.

The two events are therefore, in my opinion distinguishable. In one, the chambers of power was empty, in the other, Congress was in operation and filled with people.”

Black Lives Matter protest in Washington was dispersed by police, while president Trump notoriously went to a nearby church for photo-op. AP file photo

Question: How will you describe the event in the Capitol, and how will this affect the effectiveness of policing or future protests?

McNeilly: “To be frank, what occurred is not only disappointing- it's disgusting and a show of cowardice. In my opinion, the mob was there to clearly inflict pain, suffering and destruction, and it did so. Police’s inability to handle the matter is troubling given that it appeared that some law enforcement officers and members exhibited camaraderie and appeared to show an acceptance of the mob, their purpose, their intent. This is most troubling and is something that the American government and law enforcement generally and the Administration of Justice must look at seriously.

One must ask the question, why was this so called protest dealt with and handled differently from the get go? Was it because the participants was predominantly white? This was exhibited by law enforcement lack of manpower, by the display of leniency and an overall dereliction of their oath and duties and by the camaraderie, the leniency in how law enforcement officers interacted with the crowd.

While I am not an authority on American history or fully knowledgeable in the race divisions in the USA, in my opinion from years of paying attention to the going-ons there, what occurred clearly shows the current divide and ongoing divide in the USA, as to how law enforcement and at times the administration of justice favour one segment of society more than the other.

To be clear, differential treatment between whites and blacks for decades or centuries continues, and that was clearly exhibited by the occurrence in Washington.

Blacks and others have been pursuing freedom and equal treatment in the USA , to achieve equality and fairness and to ensure that democracy prevails.

On the other hand, many people who are white continue to rebel and advance inequality and unfairness, especially to those who do not look like them or who are marginalized. This was abundantly clear to me, as I looked at what was going on in Washington and the attack on democracy, the attack on Congress and ultimately from what I was suggesting, the leniency with which the white mob was treated by law enforcement.

What happens now as we go forward will truly tell whether the USA stands as a leader in the world in regards to democracy.

What occurred here must be quickly and fully address with a transparent accounting. Hopefully this will shed some light and guidance on the upholding and preservation of democracy.

The differential treatment in circumstances similar must be addressed also. And I reference here the protest in Washington during the summer of 2020 and Black Lives Matter as well other protests against injustice and inequality, protest that adhered to democracy and whose purpose was not to overthrow a government.

The next step will clearly inform us if the USA will really truly adhere to its Constitution, and to its views and beliefs in the constitution of equality for all, regardless of the colour of one's skin .


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