Racism and hypocrisy: San Jose activists react to police response to pro-Trump mob
Protesters clashed with San Jose police during the third day of protests Sunday over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Photo by Luke Johnson.

    As a pro-Trump mob scaled walls, smashed windows, looted lawmakers’ offices and pointed their weapons inside the U.S. Capitol, they faced little resistance from police.

    The stark difference between how law enforcement largely stood by as the mostly white insurrectionists destroyed public property and how they wore full riot gear in response to Black Lives Matter protesters became the subject of criticism across the country.

    Here at home, many activists who were injured in local BLM protests, called it racism and hypocrisy on full display.

    It took more than an hour to activate the U.S. National Guard in Washington D.C. to begin to use crowd control methods to clear out looters and rioters.

    Meanwhile, last summer in San Jose, police officers quickly opened tear gas and shot rubber bullets at a mostly peaceful crowd gathered at San Jose City Hall to protest the police killing of George Floyd. Joseph Cañas was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet while playing his guitar. Another man, Derrick Sanderlin, was hit in the groin by a rubber bullet.

    Watching yesterday’s events unfold on social media, Cañas described his deep disappointment.

    “I wasn’t really surprised to be honest. I was disappointed heavily because obviously the police didn’t come with the same energy to that mob that they did to the people protesting for the Black Lives Matter cause this summer,” Cañas said. “The biggest disappointment to me was that tear gas and rubber bullets weren’t used for yesterday’s crowds.”

    After his injury at the hands of local police, Cañas said he went back into protesting last summer, but made sure to leave quickly if he saw police approaching. He credits his sunglasses with preventing worse damage from happening — including blindness — though he suffered an orbital fracture in his left eye and experiences farsightedness requiring glasses.

    LaToya Fernandez, a local Black Lives Matter organizer, activist and San Jose City Council candidate, called the difference in police response a “result of historic and systemic racism and white supremacy in this country.”

    “Obviously it’s super disgraceful, but nothing surprised me about what happened in Washington D.C. yesterday,” she said.

    The lack of response by police to the storming of the Capitol building was “validation” of what San Jose police did this summer, Fernandez said, adding that the abuses by local law enforcement have still not been addressed.

    “It gave them the OK to target anyone that supported the Black Lives Matter movement and to allow white supremacists to do what they want,” Fernandez said.

    Silicon Valley De-Bug, the activism and organizing collective, issued a statement on Twitter Thursday.

    “Last summer SPJD (San Jose Police Department) said they had to be violent when they saw young Black/Brown ppl protesting b/c it was a ‘war zone,’” the tweet said. “Some ppl r still in jail from those protests, some with permanent injuries. So don’t want to hear any liberal moralizing from the local electeds right now.”

    San José Spotlight asked te San Jose Police Department how they believed law enforcement handled the events in D.C.

    “We do not comment on other agency’s tactics or methods of operation,” said department spokesman Sgt. Christian Camarillo.

    Rev. Jeff Moore of the San Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP called it hypocrisy.

    “These are some of the same white people that complained about (Colin) Kaepernick kneeling and disrespecting our country, and they have the audacity to disrespect a federal building,” Moore said, referring to the 49ers quarterback who was criticized for protesting by kneeling during the national anthem before football games.

    “Our people in San Jose were kneeling in protest and we were pushed, we were grabbed, jerked behind the lines,” Moore added. “These people (at the Capitol) were pushing police, breaking windows in a federal building, and there was no response at all.”

    Moore said the difference between Wednesday’s mobs and the George Floyd protests is a stark reminder of racism in this country.

    “When we were marching there were helicopters and drones in the air,” Moore said. “Now there’s a blue wall of silence. No condemnations. Police departments are quiet.”

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] and follow her @MadelynGReese

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