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Statement from the Southern Center for Human Rights Regarding the Events of January 6th at the United States Capitol

As people marched in the streets of Atlanta this summer to protest for Black lives, they were met with fully militarized battalions of police and National Guard forces. Protesters were tear-gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, stuffed into police vans, and jailed –– amid an airborne pandemic. Hundreds still face charges, and have been forced to return to court. Protesters for Black lives have been met with the same treatment in Washington, D.C. 

Likewise, when then-State Senator Nikema Williams and others peacefully congregated in the rotunda of the Georgia Capitol in the aftermath of the 2018 election, briefly chanting “count every vote,” they were swiftly arrested by Department of Public Safety officers. The group is still contesting the legality of their arrests.

And yesterday, the same day that Georgia elected its first Black United States Senator, the City of Atlanta was arresting anti-racist protestors. Atlantans gathered in solidarity with the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, in response to the decision to not prosecute the officer who shot Jacob Blake 7 times this summer. There were over 20 arrests. 

And yet, as far-right white supremacists charged the Capitol in Washington, D.C. to demand the overturning of a valid election, the police were––for the most part––noticeably absent. Some police opened the gates and permitted entry, and others took selfies with those who charged the Capitol. The gross majority of individuals who forcibly entered the Capitol were allowed to exit the building unscathed, as they were praised and urged by the President and others to simply “go home.” In Atlanta, one hundred armed protesters gathered at the State Capitol, resulting in the evacuation of the Secretary of State’s office, yet police stood down.

Black communities across the United States are regularly targeted, traumatized, jailed, and killed by the police. When communities protest against anti-Black violence, they are met with police brutality. But when white insurrectionists hijack the United States Capitol and demand the overturning of a valid election, they are met with police patience. There can be no mistaking who and what it is that policing as an institution serves and protects: whiteness.

The Southern Center for Human Rights will continue to support all who rise up in defense of Black lives, and to work against the violent and racist action and inaction of policing. This week we recommit ourselves to fighting for equality, dignity, and justice for all people impacted by the criminal legal systems, and to build a world free from racial injustice.