WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s association of Black lawyers put out a statement on Friday calling on leadership to investigate the “clear disparity” in how the pro-Trump insurrectionists who attacked the US Capitol last week were treated compared to Black Lives Matter demonstrators last summer.
In a statement sent to members of the Department of Justice Association of Black Attorneys and posted on its website, the group drew a distinction between the use of force against “largely peaceful” Black Lives Matter demonstrators and the “self-restraint” that law enforcement appeared to use in response to the “overwhelmingly white mob” that attacked the Capitol.
“Law enforcement appeared to exercise immense self-restraint toward the overwhelmingly violent white mob attacking the Capitol, but teargassed and confronted — in full riot gear — demonstrators exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully protest the unjust police killings of Black Americans,” the group wrote. “DOJABA urges the Department to investigate and address these disparities, which support what many have long feared: that the fair and impartial enforcement of the law does not apply to Black Americans.”
The Justice Department inspector general’s office announced Friday morning that it would investigate the department’s handling of last week’s riot at the Capitol, and that the inspector general offices of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Interior Department would also be doing their own reviews.
DOJABA has approximately 200 members across the country, according to the group’s website. A representative of the association did not immediately return a request for comment. A Justice Department source familiar with the group’s efforts said they also sent the letter directly to the attorney general’s office.
“The stark contrast between the gravely deficient number of law enforcement and military assets at the Capitol last week as it became engulfed in mob violence and the vast number deployed all over Washington, D.C. last summer during the racial justice protests reminds us that there is much, as a nation, we must face and change, including how aggressively people of color are policed as compared to their white counterparts,” the association wrote.
The Justice Department under the Trump administration lacked racial and gender diversity in leadership posts and actively worked to roll back civil rights protections and scale back programs meant to hold police departments accountable for misconduct and abuses. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reinvigorate the department’s civil rights work, and last week announced two longtime civil rights advocates as his nominees for top positions at the department.
The Senate has not announced a schedule yet for Biden’s nominee for US attorney general, Judge Merrick Garland, and his other DOJ picks. In the meantime, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen remains in charge; he had been the department’s number two official before Bill Barr stepped down in December.