In the protests following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Deshann Sanchez was tear gassed in the face by law enforcement and struck in the leg with a rubber bullet.
After setting up several medical tents, she saw one demonstrator spitting out her teeth and trying not to choke on her own blood after a police-fired rubber projectile hit her in the mouth. So when Sanchez saw footage of a mob storming the Capitol in Washington, D.C. with little resistance from law enforcement, it was a reminder of why she has been fighting for racial justice.
"We've seen a huge overresponse when it's Black Lives Matter or people of color protesting in response to a loss of life," said Sanchez, who founded Justice Frontline Aid to assist protesters. "It's complete day and night [compared to] the underresponse for something as big as our nation's Capitol where there are senators, private documents ... and it begs the question: why?"
Civil rights leaders, activists and protesters are questioning how a white mob of President Trump's supporters could invade the Capitol building Wednesday as authorities mostly retreated — while people of color and their allies faced tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrests during protests against police violence in Minneapolis and other cities last year.
The Minneapolis Police Department is being sued by people who say they suffered serious injuries, including the loss of an eye, after officers attacked them with tear gas and projectiles without warning during the Floyd protests.
Mel Reeves noted that Wednesday's hands-off approach stood in stark contrast to the law enforcement response to local demonstrations over the police killings of Floyd and before that, Jamar Clark.
"The actions of response by law enforcement to the actions of white people running around shows there's clearly a double standard in U.S. law enforcement and it delegitimizes it," said Reeves, a longtime civil rights activist.
He said the images at the Capitol only further eroded Black people's trust in police.
"We saw white people push them around, jump on them, throw stuff around and they didn't even go to jail," he said. "Those fighting for white supremacy get a pass. Those fighting for peace and justice, they get locked up and mistreated."
In D.C., several dozen trespassers were arrested, though the intruders were largely allowed to leave the Capitol without being detained.
Local activists expect to address the matter during a demonstration Saturday noon at the Hennepin County Government Center, where protesters will demand justice for Dolal Idd, a Black man shot and killed by Minneapolis police last month, and Jacob Blake, a Black man shot and paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wis., last year. A Wisconsin prosecutor announced this week that no charges would be filed against the officer who shot Blake.
Lex Berndt, who uses the pronouns they/them, felt targeted during the Floyd protests even after clearly identifying themselves as a volunteer medic. Berndt and their colleagues coughed and gagged after police threw tear gas cans directly at their medic van marked with a red cross. And Berndt felt terrorized by the officers standing around holding assault rifles as helicopters roared overhead.
Berndt noted that the president's tweets in May that seemed to incite violence against protesters did not apply to those storming the capitol.
"Donald Trump said, 'when the looting starts the shooting starts,' but some man stole a literal podium — didn't see him get shot," Berndt said.
Authorities in Washington have said that one of the four people who died Wednesday was shot to death by officers as she stormed the Capitol.
As shocking as it was to watch the mostly mild interactions between Capitol police and rioters in D.C., Berndt said that many people knew this was coming.
"When Donald Trump was elected, people like me, Black people, people of color, queer people, any marginalized group of people, we were all devastated because we knew this was going to happen," they added. "I can't say that I'm surprised."
Ashley Quiñones has attended racial justice protests from Minneapolis to Louisville, Ky., to Kenosha, Wis., and seen the harsh response that demonstrators received from authorities.
"I think it was perfect for the world to see the stark difference in how people of color are treated vs. whites in America," said Quiñones, executive director of Justice Squad, a racial justice organization she founded after Richfield and Edina police killed her husband Brian Quiñones in 2019.
If the protesters were not white, "the casualties would have been high," added Quiñones. "I'm sure people would have lost their eyes. I know people who have lost their eyes here for less. I'm sure there wouldn't be as many people walking away from that situation, nor would they have allowed people of color to get anywhere near the inside of that building."
Zellie Imani recalled one of the scariest moments of his life. While walking to their car during a Minneapolis protest following Floyd's death, Imani and some friends, all of them Black, were ordered by police to stop or they would be shot.
"This has to be a lesson to all of us that the issue isn't whether or not police need to have more restraint or need more training," said Imani, a Black Lives Matter activist based in Paterson, N.J., who traveled here for the Floyd demonstrations.
"They have enough training. They have enough restraint ... The real issue is who they have restraint for and who they choose to de-escalate and not de-escalate with."
The white mob at the Capitol believed "the police were on their side and the police would not hurt them or harm them, and this was their country, and this was their building, and that they were going to go take it over," he said. "So it's not just an idea that Black people know exists — it's a feeling that a lot of white people know exists."
Staff writers Zoë Jackson and Libor Jany contributed to this report.