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 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, president of Justice Frontline Aid, which provides medical assistance and other resources to protesters. "It's complete day and night [compared with] the underresponse for something as big as our nation's Capitol where there are senators, private documents … and it begs the question: Why?"
The insurrection in Washington is reigniting the debate in Minnesota and across the country over how law enforcement responds in times of riots, violence and protesting.
The violence in Washington offers some parallels to the rioting that engulfed Minneapolis in May after the police killed Floyd. Police in Minneapolis endured widespread criticism for appearing to stand by and let rioters destroy property and set fires.
The city of Minneapolis abandoned the Third Precinct police station rather than engage in combat with rioters who looted the building and set it on fire following Floyd's death.
But the police department also faced condemnation for its use of force against a diverse group of peaceful protesters, and the agency is being sued by people who say they suffered serious injuries, including the loss of an eye, after officers pushed back crowds with tear gas and rubber projectiles.
"The … 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 Mel Reeves, a longtime civil rights activist.
In D.C., more than 60 trespassers were arrested, and police fatally shot a rioter climbing through a Capitol window; three others died from medical incidents at the scene.
Rioters attacked police with lead pipes, sprayed chemical irritants and took up arms against officers, according to news reports.
Other videos also offered contrasts between the handling of Black Lives Matter protesters and violent Donald Trump supporters who stormed the Capital in Washington, including one viral video that appeared to show a police officer posing for selfies with rioters.
President-elect Joe Biden addressed the topic in his Thursday address.
"No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesters yesterday that they wouldn't have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol," Biden said. "We all know that's true — and it's unacceptable."
Local activists expect to address the matter during a demonstration at noon Saturday at the Hennepin County Government Center, where they will protest the shootings of Dolal Idd, a Black man shot and killed by Minneapolis police last month, and Jacob Blake, a Black man shot and paralyzed by Kenosha, Wis., police in August. The Kenosha County prosecutor announced this week that his office would not file charges against the officer who shot Blake.
Arizona State University criminology professor Edward Maguire said it was a "really reasonable concern" for activists to question why the law enforcement response seemed so hands-off, especially in comparison to the unrest that erupted over the police killings of Black Americans. He said more questions should be asked about "just what were these officers instructed to do and by whom."
Lex Berndt felt targeted during the Floyd protests even after clearly self-identifying as a volunteer medic.
Berndt and fellow volunteers coughed and gagged after police threw tear gas cans at their medic van. They 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 [at the Capitol] — didn't see him get shot," Berndt said.
Members of Congress will be reviewing the police response and urged residents not to jump to conclusions.
"The after-action review will determine what failures occurred and why," U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told USA Today. "The plans should have anticipated the potential for what happened today."
Ashley Quiñones has attended racial justice protests from Minneapolis to Louisville, Ky., to Kenosha and has 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 versus 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.
Little Earth resident Margarita Ortega, who is running for a City Council seat in Minneapolis' Ninth Ward, said she believes police are enforcers and supporters of white supremacy, and she said they shouldn't protect only one race.
"I know on the first night of the protests, police were already firing on protesters [with rubber bullets]," she said. "I know because I was one of the first ones who were shot in the head."
Zellie Imani recalled what he said was 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."
Staff writers Zoë Jackson and Libor Jany contributed to this report.
Maya Rao • 612-673-4210 Twitter: @Mrao_Strib