The recent protest on our Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., grew from peaceful to criminal in a matter of minutes.
Everyone would agree this was unbelievable as the scene unfolded before our very eyes. Blame began to swirl as the chaos ramped up to a fever pitch with no end in sight.
A “protest” is an organization of a group of people and a “mob” is when that group causes a disturbance.
While at APD, I was dispatched to several protests that erupted into a mob and witnessed firsthand the characteristics of both. I have seen emotions of protests get carried away to the point I thought violence would erupt, but then, calmer minds prevailed and the message of the assembly was not lost in a riot. The interesting thing about a mob is that normal law-abiding citizens get caught up in the actions of a few aggressive actors, and they do things they would never do alone as an individual.
As in the Rodney King riots that occurred in 1992 throughout the country, and more importantly for me, in downtown Atlanta. I was in a group of eleven officers that were dropped off into a sea of rowdy protestors that outnumbered us in the thousands. We had received no special equipment, training or mission directives, left to our own demise in the overwhelming anger of regular people hellbent on voicing their displeasure about the court verdict that happened nearly 2,200 miles away.
It wasn’t long before store windows were smashed and widespread looting began, seeing normally peaceful citizens racing through a retail store grabbing all the dresses and other merchandise their outstretched arms could carry.
Did all the protesters participate in the looting? No, in fact, a small portion of agitators counted on the remaining crowd for cover as they made their escape with stolen goods. Was everyone there labeled rioters or protestors? Due to the actions of a few, “all” were labeled as riotous criminal participants.
So, what are the takeaways from this horrendous action in our nation’s Capital?
First, this protest-turned-riot has many similarities from those of the past. Death resulted by fights with authorities and incidental medical emergencies. Destruction of private and public property by those whose primary intent was to intermingle with peaceful protesters in order to mask a more sinister plot to steal and destroy ruined the actual intent of the free speech march forever.
Secondly, politicians were actually so out of touch with the concerns of half the voting populous that many of them view this an act of insurrection, domestic terrorism and treasonous actions due largely in part to the “target” of the riot instead of considering the outrage of unaddressed irregularities of a presidential election.
Thirdly, the total unpreparedness of security resources prior and during the riotous action left no single agency in charge, and all support agencies delaying action when requested, pointing fingers at each other in the aftermath.
Fourth, President Trump was alleged to have incited a riot seemingly by everyone, yet like all the other allegations in the past, there were no actual words directing a mob of people to riot on the Capitol Building. Dog whistle messaging, aggressive political rhetoric and innuendos do not constitute incitement. (Brandenburg v. Ohio 395 U.S. 444, 1969)
I totally believe President Trump should have “immediately” communicated, through all means possible, to stop all entry into the Capitol Building. His delay, in my opinion, was to personally enjoy a moment when he should have been stopping the advance of the crowds that brought worldwide embarrassment to this country.
Plenty of blame to go around.
W.J. Butcher is a Coweta County resident and retired 26-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department. Send comments, kudos, and criticism to: firstname.lastname@example.org .