Black police officers and the insurrectionists

We have seen a lot of videos of the insurrection that took place on January 6th at the US Capitol building. Some of those images showed white people bearing confederate flags and Trump signs attacking an overwhelmed security force, some of them black police officers. The officers said that their superiors had not been ready for the assault and did not seem to have any plan of action, leaving it to the officers to improvise against overwhelming odds. This has led to a loss of confidence in their leadership. Two police officers have taken their own lives following the attack.

Emanuel Felton has been reporting on the attack for Buzzfeed News. In a written report, he describes the experience of the black officers.

While some of the images from that day appeared to show officers standing by to let the mob into the Capitol building, the veteran officer said that they had fought them off for two hours before the attackers eventually gained access. The officer said that many of the widely spread images of smiling marauders, wandering the halls dressed in absurd costumes, had the effect of downplaying how well prepared some of the rioters were to overtake the building, and even to capture and kill Congress members.

“That was a heavily trained group of militia terrorists that attacked us,” said the officer, who has been with the department for more than a decade. “They had radios, we found them, they had two-way communicators and earpieces. They had bear spray. They had flash bangs … They were prepared. They strategically put two IEDs, pipe bombs, in two different locations. These guys were military trained. A lot of them were former military,” the officer said, referring to two suspected pipe bombs that were found outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.

The officer even described coming face-to-face with police officers from across the country in the mob. He said some of them flashed their badges, telling him to let them through, and trying to explain that this was all part of a movement that was supposed to help.

“You have the nerve to be holding a Blue Lives Matter flag, and you are out there fucking us up,” he told one group of protesters he encountered inside the Capitol. “[One guy] pulled out his badge and he said, ‘We’re doing this for you.’ Another guy had his badge. So I was like, ‘Well, you gotta be kidding.’”

Another officer, a newer recruit, echoed these sentiments, saying that where he was on the steps to the Rotunda on the east side of the Capitol, he was engaged in hand-to-hand battles trying to fight the attackers off. But he said they were outnumbered 10 to 1, and described extraordinary scenes in which protesters holding Blue Lives Matter flags launched themselves at police officers.

“We were telling them to back up and get away and stop, and they’re telling us they are on our side, and they’re doing this for us, and they’re saying this as I’m getting punched in my face by one of them … That happened to a lot of us. We were getting pepper-sprayed in the face by those protesters — I’m not going to even call them protesters — by those domestic terrorists,” said the officer.

Some of the officers say that they would not be surprised to learn that some members of Congress were behind the insurrection.

The radio program. This American Life had a show in which Felton spoke to black officers who had to confront the angry mob that was shouting racist slurs at them.The 13-minute program is well worth listening to.

I think that the US is on a knife edge at this moment, where a number of people in power are giving support to what is essentially an insurrection. These people seem to believe that the government is illegitimate and have no respect for democratic institutions. The question is whether these insurrectionists will feel emboldened enough to start a long-term guerrilla war against the government.


  1. raven says

    These people seem to believe that the government is illegitimate and have no respect for democratic institutions. The question is whether these insurrectionists will feel emboldened enough to start a long-term guerrilla war against the government.

    No doubt about it.
    The two most out haters are Laura Boebert from Colorado and Marforie Taylor, from Qanon.

    The GOP is just finishing their Civil War. It lasted a whole 3 weeks. It was between the crazies and the very crazies. The very crazies won.
    The representative from Qanon has been given seats on two powerful congressional committees. This is the woman whose main trick seems to be to call for the execution of everyone but Qanons.

    The Democratic party and the real freedom lovers in the USA need to fight back or they could ultimately lose.
    (One of those is myself.)

  2. says

    One thing I have not seen discussed is why those two police officers took their own lives. Was it because they failed in their legitimate efforts to protect the Capitol? Or was it because they were sympathetic to the insurrectionists and feared being exposed and punished?

    I hate to besmirch anybody’s good name and I hope I am wrong, but in the absence of other information, somehow the latter seems more likely to me than the former. (And it also seems to me that the latter is not something that the Capitol Police would want known.)

  3. consciousness razor says

    It’s always hard to know what a person may have been thinking. I haven’t seen much reporting on that either. But these tweets from Michael Kaplan at CBS do at least paint a picture:

    NEWS: The US Capitol Police has had to respond to “a couple of incidents” of officers threatening to harm themselves in the wake of the attack on Capitol Hill. This includes a female officer who turned in her own weapon for fear of what might happen.

    A source told @CBSNews the dept. is “demoralized”.

    “There’s tremendous moral injury, a sense of failure weighing them down. They went home to family and were asked how did this happen. And it’s very easy for those officers to interpret that as ‘how could you let this happen?’”

  4. garnetstar says

    Yeah, I just saw a compilation of tweets that Boebart sent before and during the riot. It was dammning, just complete and outright support, incitement, encouragemnet. It was enough for a jury to convict, if introduced in a trial. (sorry I can’t link to the compilation, I lost it.)

    And, as achuah @2 says, I think that the suicides of the officers have to be investigated. There is something *deeply* wrong about two separate people committing that as a direct result of…..whatever went on? One might believe that an officer was already experiencing mental or emotional difficulties and that the riot was the proximate cause of suicide. For two officers, not even on the same force (or were they? One was in the DC police force, don’t know about the other), that is not just an unfortunate coincidence.

    And, I want to know why AOC knew that she wasn’t safe, around the white supremacist members of congress. I want to know which of them are that dangerous that she preferred to take a chance with her life and chose not to shelter in the approved place with them. If they’re that dangerous that *that* choice, chancing it on her own, was preferable to AOC, we need to know.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    … whether these insurrectionists will feel emboldened enough to start a long-term guerrilla war against the government.

    No matter how large the personal arsenals of how many potential insurgents, such projects succeed only with major outside support.

    Only Moscow or Beijing have both means and motive, and China would probably rather protect its dollar-based assets and investments. Would Putin, facing a much bigger military, try to push the US back against a wall? That seems totally at odds with all his strategies so far.

  6. Mark Dowd says

    I’ve noticed a growing trend to capitalize Black as a proper noun when using it in a racial context. Might be something you want to get on board on.

  7. Mano Singham says


    I have been meaning to start doing this but never got around to it. I need to check the AP style manual to learn exactly when to capitalize and for what groups.

  8. John Morales says

    Already done, Mano:

    OK, since I am interested in words and in grammar, this has been bugging me:
    Why we capitalize ‘Black’ (and not ‘white’).

    we capitalize Black, and not white, when referring to racial groups. Black is an ethnic designation; white merely describes the skin color of people who can, usually without much difficulty, trace their ethnic origins back to a handful of European countries.

    I find the basis specious (both are “racial groups”, by their own claim), but at least I know, now.

  9. raven says

    I’m not white but more of a pinkish tan.
    OTOH, it won’t help if people start referring to the Blacks and the pinkish tans.

  10. says

    consciousness razor:

    Thank you for digging that out for me. How sad, I guess it’s a form of PTSD. And now the events infuriate me even more.

  11. raven says

    I’m sure the Capitol Hill police are demoralized.
    There was a massive failure by everyone above them, starting with their chief of police, the Pentagon, DHS/FBI, and the executive branch i.e. Trump.

    They were put in a position where they were vastly outnumbered, not informed about much of anything, and underequiped. Some of them didn’t even have helmets.

    140 of them sustained injuries, many of them serious, one of them fatal.
    It’s amazing that they did as well as they did, considering the situation. If things had been a little different, the death toll could have been way higher and the Capitol building could have gone the way of the old Berlin Reichstag.
    I looked at the photos and videos and the Capitol building looks like a fire trap. Lots of wood, lots of fabric, lots of paper.

  12. consciousness razor says

    For two officers, not even on the same force (or were they? One was in the DC police force, don’t know about the other), that is not just an unfortunate coincidence.

    I don’t think that’s very obvious. We are after all talking about thousands of people, and suicide rates have always been high enough such that it’s not wildly unlikely to happen purely as a matter of chance. Then consider the demographics here, again just thinking about it independently of this incident just for the moment. Like many other police departments in this country, they have lots of men, particularly middle-aged white men….

    The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported that in 2016 suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., imposing a cost of $69 billion to the US annually.[9][18] Other statistics reported are:[9]
    — The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.
    — Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.
    — On average, there are 132 suicides per day.
    — White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
    — A firearm is used in almost 50% of all suicides.
    — The rate of suicide is highest in middle age—among white men in particular.

    It hardly needs to be said that these are cops, and they do have firearms, which by themselves increase the risk of suicide considerably.

    The DC police have more black officers, relatively speaking. I’ve read that they’ve somewhat recently increased the proportion to make it more representative of the broader DC population. Meanwhile, the Capitol police seem to have had a long and sordid history of racial inequality which is still far from over — thanks, Congress! — so they consist much more of the white middle-aged men mentioned above.

    Also, to consider a bit more of the context beyond just the Jan. 6 events at the the US Capitol, the suicide rate has been climbing in this country since the start of the pandemic. I think it’s especially bad with younger people, who are typically in much worse shape economically speaking, but older people have suffered as well of course. From the same wiki page as above:

    In August 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey conducted by the CDC found that 25.5 percent of people aged between 18 and 24 have seriously contemplated suicide within the last 30 days. For the age group 25 to 44, it was 16 percent. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept said of the findings:

    In a remotely healthy society, one that provides basic emotional needs to its population, suicide and serious suicidal ideation are rare events. It is anathema to the most basic human instinct: the will to live. A society in which such a vast swath of the population is seriously considering it as an option is one which is anything but healthy, one which is plainly failing to provide its citizens the basic necessities for a fulfilling life.[36]

    Anyway, it’s definitely not my first inclination to suspect that they must be guilty of something. Frankly, I suppose that is my general view of cops, but I don’t suspect it because a person (cops included) has committed suicide. However, it is a sign of tons of other awfulness that’s probably happening around that person. And the horribly violent/corrupt cops who get away with all sorts of bad shit, then possibly go on paid leave for a while to come back and do it again and again … those cops are obviously still alive the entire time. (Not necessarily their victims though.) If they do feel any guilt about anything, they seem pretty good at hiding it from the rest of us.

  13. consciousness razor says

    John, as I’m sure you know, I have no particular sympathies for cops; and I have no more respect for them than I have for any other human being. However, you don’t need any of that to simply look at the available evidence and understand what it actually says, which is much better than engaging in baseless speculation or conspiracy-mongering. So that was my intent in comment #12.

    Besides, we have plenty of honest reasons to think badly of cops, either individually or as a group. It’s not as if we need to come up with any more than we already had. So, I mean, it’s one thing that such suspicions in this case may be unfounded and ill-motivated (which is bad enough), but it also seems to serve no useful purpose.

  14. ilr1950 says

    A lot of people in congress are out for blood and Im good with that. The people who tried to overturn the election and keep Trump in power committed insurrection, committed treason, and should be held accountable. They seem to think they could do whatever they wanted and get away with it -- four years of Trump gave them that mind set. They need to wake up and face the fact they will be held accountable and that may well mean losing their jobs, prison time, and, in some cases, losing their position as an elected official.

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