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A BLM Protest Brought Thousands Of National Guardsmen To D.C. In June. Where Were They Wednesday?

Victoria Pickering
Flickr Creative Commons
National Guard members at a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C. in June 2020.

There are a lot of questions about why the pro-Trump mob was able to breach the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. One pertains to the National Guard: Where were they?

This summer, President Donald Trump called on states to help protect the capitol from what turned out to be largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. Idaho chipped in 400 National Guard troops. Utah sent 200.

This week in D.C., an insurrection was openly planned on social media – but there reportedly weren't Guard troops on the ground Wednesday morning. The D.C. National Guard, which is controlled by federal agencies, didn't respond until after rioters made their way inside.

David Meyer is a professor at the University of California, Irvine and an author of the book "The Politics of Protest: Social Movements of America."

He compares the insurrection to the anti-lockdown protests, which also faced far less force than Black Lives Matter protests.

"Policing is supposed to make distinctions based on tactics and conduct, but not based on belief, and certainly not based on identity," Mayer said. "And this moment has been different because the president of the United States has been ready to make heroes of people who do extraordinarily disruptive things if those people say they like him."

Meyer spreads the blame for different policing methods onto all levels of government and law enforcement, though.

"Mayors and police commissioners can do things that make the world worse or make the world better," he said.

This summer, as protesters gathered to confront police brutality and system racism, more than 4,000 National Guard members were deployed to the capitol, not counting other kinds of law enforcement and military personnel. By contrast, in response to the pro-Trump rioters on Wednesday, only 1,100 had been deployed by late that evening.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Madelyn Beck was Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

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