23 February 2021

It Was Racism that Killed the Beast

Dan Froomkin has a must-read analysis on the testimony of former Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund before Congress.

In it he conclusively shows that Sund is deliberately deceptive to Congress, focusing on a poorly distributed FBI memo (the January 5 memo) from the day before the assault on the Capitol, while misleading about a far more detailed and extensive report from his own Capitol police from two days earlier, which was given to him, where his own intelligence unit warned about the very real possibility of a actions by the protesters where, "Congress itself is the target."

I agree with Froomkin's assessment:  Lund's lackadaisical response stems not from bad intelligence, but from racism:

Steven Sund, the disgraced former chief of the Capitol Police Department, was explicitly warned in a Jan. 3 memo from his own intelligence unit that thousands of desperate, violence-prone Trump supporters were planning to target Congress on Jan. 6, encouraged by the president himself.

The memo didn’t really say much more than was already obvious to anyone paying attention, but it was authoritative, detailed, and, of course, prescient.

Sund waved it off. He didn’t bother to share it with the rank and file. He didn’t equip his frontline officers with tear gas, or other non-lethal crowd-control weapons, or riot gear. Instead, he sent them out in street uniforms to man barricades made of bike racks, and get the shit beaten out of them, in one case fatally. He let the Capitol fall to a mob.

But in his first public comments on Tuesday, Sund had the breath-taking gall to blame the breach of the Capitol not on his own poor decision-making, but on a “clear lack of accurate and complete intelligence across several federal agencies.”


The Feb. 5 FBI report was shared with the Capitol Police intelligence unit. Sund said he didn’t get it, however, and under leading questioning from Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon blamed the unit’s director, John Donahue, for that.


Sund’s story is that because of flawed intelligence, he judged the danger posed by the Jan. 6 protests as similar in scale to that posed by previous pro-Trump rallies nearby, none of which amounted to much.

But take a few moments to read this one, “redacted” excerpt from the internal Jan. 3 memo that the Post made public. Sund’s excuses fall apart. (The public really needs to see the full, unredacted memo, by the way.)
Due to the tense political environment following the 2020 election, the threat of disruptive actions or violence cannot be ruled out. Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election. This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent. Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th. As outlined above, there has been a worrisome call for protesters to come to these events armed and there is the possibility that protesters may be inclined to become violent. Further, unlike the events on November 14, 2020, and December 12, 2020, there are several more protests scheduled on January 6, 2021, and the majority of them will be on Capitol grounds. The two protests expected to be the largest of the day – the Women for American First protest on the Ellipse and the Stop the Steal protest in Areas 8 and 9 — may draw thousands of participants and both have been promoted by President Trump himself. The Stop the Steal protest in particular does not have a permit, but several high profile speakers, including Members of Congress are expected to speak at the event. This combined with Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence, may lead to significantly dangerous situations for law enforcement and the general public alike.
Imagine reading that memo and failing to put your own officers on red alert; failing to prepare them to repel what seemed like an inevitable onslaught.

The closest any senator came to asking about that was Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy. “It’s not that we had inadequate resources, but a failure to deploy the people that we were supposed to,” he told Sund. He noted that Sund had in a previous letter acknowledged knowing that white supremacist groups and other extremist groups were expected on Jan. 6 and might become violent.


As Rep. Cori Bush – a veteran of many Black Lives Matter protests – put it on MSNBC the very evening of the insurrection: “Had it been people who look like me, had it been the same amount of people, but had they been Black and brown, we wouldn’t have made it up those steps… we would have been shot, we would have been tear gassed.”

The reporting on this element of the story – why Sund and the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, also older white males, weren’t particularly alarmed by the MAGA horde – has been terrible. Nearly nonexistent.

The one exception has been an article by Joaquin Sapien and Joshua Kaplan for ProPublica, based on interviews with 19 current and former U.S. Capitol Police officers. They reported:
The interviews… revealed officers’ concerns about disparities in the way the force prepared for Black Lives Matter demonstrations versus the pro-Trump protests on Jan. 6. Officers said the Capitol Police force usually plans intensively for protests, even if they are deemed unlikely to grow violent. Officers said they spent weeks working 12- or 16-hour days, poised to fight off a riot, after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police — even though intelligence suggested there was not much danger from protesters.

“We had intel that nothing was going to happen — literally nothing,” said one former official with direct knowledge of planning for the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. “The response was, ‘We don’t trust the intel.’”

By contrast, for much of the force, Jan. 6 began like any other day.

“We normally have pretty good information regarding where these people are and how far they are from the Capitol,” said Keith McFaden, a former Capitol Police officer and union leader who retired from the force following the riot. “We heard nothing that day.”
But nobody at the Senate hearing even mentioned the issue of race. Not once.

Nobody asked Sund to compare and contrast his preparedness for Jan. 6 with his preparedness for Black Lives Matter protests that weren’t even nearby. Nobody asked why Sund didn’t give front-line officers tear gas. Nobody asked Sund or the two sergeants-at-arms if the white privilege they shared with the mob had made it seem unthreatening to them, unlike the “other”.

This was willful blindness driven by (at best) privilege, and the Congressmen questioning should have (metaphorically) strung up Sund by his entrails over this.

He just lied to Congress, and he deliberately hung men under his command out to dry, but the story of the mainstream media is going to be about how this mook is a victim of circumstance.


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