Correction: It has now come to my attention that Officer Sicknick’s death was of natural causes, and not a homicide. The narrative surrounding his death was thus a prime example of copaganda and liberal nationalism. This does not change the substance of the piece in any meaningful way, but readers should be aware. I apologize for trusting the reporting of state institutions and bourgeois media.
In the wake of the violent storming of the United States Capitol on January 6th that left several dead, including one murdered cop, roughly 20,000 National Guardsmen deployed to Washington, D.C. to protect President-Elect Joe Biden’s upcoming inauguration. For context, this means there are more U.S. troops in capital of the United States right now than in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined.
Metro stations are closed, roadblocks in place, and what is essentially a military occupation now envelops the city. And yet through all of this, D.C.’s murder rate continues to climb unabated.
According to The Guardian, the National Guard began protecting the Capitol on Friday, January 8th. Since that time, at least three homicides occurred in D.C., all three in different quadrants of the city: Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast. All in all, if police statistics are to be trusted (they aren’t), so-called “violent crime” is up 10% in January 2021, compared to January 2020.
Stabbings, shootings, robberies, rape: of course these aren’t the purview of the National Guard, who lack police powers, including that of arrest. But the striking difference is in how such violence is viewed by the press, the politicians, and the public.
If a young Black or Brown man gets killed in the brutal Uptown turf war that’s been heating up since the summer, no one “important” cares. Maybe they’ll shut the block down for a few hours to gather shell-casings.
If you’re a cop that gets beaten to death with a fire extinguisher though, suddenly Nancy Pelosi needs to shut the entire city down like it’s 9/11. Seriously, just try to Google “murder in D.C.,” and you won’t even find recent articles. The entire Google News page is clogged up with “Capitol rioter” pieces.
D.C. residents, especially Black people, already live with the threat of assassination every day. Just last month, a 1-year-old child was shot and killed. In addition, far-right goons burned Black Lives Matter banners torn from churches, and assaulted random bystanders.
I’m not trying to cast the city as a hellhole, it’s a great place. But for far too long national politicians have treated the city as their own personal playground, rather than seeking any actual engagement with residents. Some more despicable legislators even openly deride D.C.-dwellers, earning seal-claps from their chauvinistic constituents.
This was made all the more obvious on January 18th, when the Capitol went on lockdown after a small fire at a nearby homeless encampment. The immediate narrative was “all clear, everyone is safe. Don’t worry about it.” Honestly, I’d care less if the fire was at the Capitol itself. Shouldn’t you report if the people in the encampment are safe, since, you know, that’s where the fire actually happened? Shouldn’t the fact that there is a homeless encampment within a mile of Our Holy Sanctum of Democracy™ bring some pause?
I’m not going to play dumb here, though. The reason why the violence in the Capitol and the violence in the capital is treated differently is obvious. Politicians and the people that bankroll them don’t care about violence in the capital; it doesn’t affect them. They strut around Downtown under the watchful eyes of the police and their own security details. Most of them couldn’t tell the difference between U Street and P Street.
I’m also not going to suggest that we really do need the National Guard to start staging in Columbia Heights or on Benning Road, S.E., to “stop the violence.” Certainly the D.C. National Guard had no qualms letting the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and an assortment of federal law enforcement agencies beat and maim protestors for Trump’s photo-op on June 1st, 2020; they haven’t exactly shown their willingness to “defend” anyone or anything but the violent machinations of the state.
The entire thing reeks of security theater. They’re not making D.C. safe, they’re making their playground safe for the ultimate bourgeois-bash, and putting on a show for the provincials. (And here I thought Trump was going to stage the military parade…)
One final note: D.C. residents don’t even have representation in the Capitol Building. Since D.C. is still not a state, despite a 2016 plebiscite finding a whopping 86% support for statehood, there are no Senators of Congresspeople representing the District in the United States legislature.
If politicians don’t care about murder in the capital, why should D.C. residents care about a murder in the Capitol?
(Featured photo credit, Tyler Merbler)