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'A Slap In The Face': North Texas Social Justice Advocates Decry Police Response To Capitol Attack

The U.S. Capitol with fencing around it.
Evan Vucci
Associated Press
With the U.S. Capitol in the background, members of the National Guard stand behind newly placed fencing around the Capitol grounds the day after violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

When a violent mob of Trump supporters aggressively forced their way into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to disrupt the certification of the 2020 Presidential election, many Americans were aghast by the invasion.

But for many social justice leaders in North Texas, the violent actions did not come as a shock. Instead, local advocates for equality, inclusion, improved policing and racial justice say yesterday's events merely showcased for the world the already-bleak reality of racism in our country.

KERA reached out to a few of these folks to better understand their feelings and reactions to yesterday’s storming of Congress.

Sara Mokuria

Sara Mokuria, co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, stands by some sun flowers on a sunny day in Dallas.
Keren Carrión
Sara Mokuria, co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, stands by some sun flowers on a sunny day in Dallas.

Mokuria saw her father get shot and killed by the police when she was 10.

The co-founder of the social justice organization Mother’s Against Police Brutality made it her mission to build bridges between people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This summer she was out advocating for police reform and has become a prominent voice in the movement.

“The storming of the Capitol leaves me almost speechless,” Mokuria said.

“But the part that was most-telling was the way in which this actual violent coup by white vigilantes was being treated and discussed in mainstream media as a ‘protest.’ And the people perpetrating this attack were being treated like ‘peaceful protesters’ by police agencies.”

Mokuria compared Wednesday’s events to the scenes she witnessed during Dallas’ protests against police brutality which took place over the summer.

“What happened in D.C., and how it was handled is in complete contrast to the way that actual peaceful protest by Black, Brown, Indigenous, poor, LGBTQ folks are treated,” she said. “Not only were they treated like ‘peaceful protesters,’ but there is documentation of these attackers being aided by law enforcement. All of this happened in the most militarized, most policed city in the world.”

She said she was appalled at the reactions over the summer to Black grief and dignity compared to “an actual violent coup by White vigilantes,” which she said was “treated with deference.”

Jodi Voice Yellowfish

Jodi Voice Yellowfish sits at a desk with papers and a briefcase in front of her. There's a painting of a woman dancing in front of a man playing trumpet behind her sholder.
Jodi Voice Yellowfish, Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation
Jodi Voice Yellowfish, a leader with the American Indian Heritage Day in Texas and MMIW Texas (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn)

Yellowfish, a leader with the American Indian Heritage Day in Texas and MMIW Texas (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman) called it “an insult” to call the pro-Trump extremists at the Capitol “protestors.”

“People in our city have put their lives on the line. During a pandemic, they took to the streets last summer in an attempt to be seen and heard, because there was a need to do so,” Yellowfish said.

She said the people who stormed the Capitol seemed a lot less mission-oriented.

“These people that we saw yesterday… I don’t know what their goal was,” she said.

“The atrocities that people of color and others are living through, they needed to be brought to light. But I saw what happened. I saw the force they were met with. And I didn’t see that yesterday. It’s a slap in the face. It’s a slap against those working to survive."

Yellowfish compared the way the Black Lives Matter protesters were treated to the way that Native Americans were treated by the federal government during the fight for Standing Rock. She said neither situation was handled by law enforcement like the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“At Standing Rock, we were on sacred land, our ancestral homelands, not only fighting for something that was important to us as Native Americans but literally for water and the land that affects everyone!” she said. “And yet there were dogs, rubber bullets and worse.”

The indigenous leader said that's the sort of force she expected to see on Wednesday.

Tramonica Brown

black and white photo of Tramonica Brown with her fist raised at a protest.
Tramonica Brown
Tramonica Brown, founder of Not My Son.

As Tramonica Brown watched the violent riots in D.C. from her television screen at home in Dallas, she says she was anything but shocked.

“Yesterday was a day when the chickens came home to roost,” said Tramonica Brown, founder of Not My Son — a non-profit in Dallas that advocates for police accountability.

Brown said the way the mob was treated at the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol is proof of a racial double standard.

“I say that because we have people who have stormed the Capitol, who have looted inside of the Capitol, who’ve stolen laptops and podiums, but we as Black people we were simply marching to be recognized as equals and we were shot. There was a man in the DFW who lost his eye, and there were doctors who wounded in the face. I saw a police officer ride his bicycle over a man’s neck!”

One of the most striking images of the insurrection, according to Brown, was the rope that the extremist mob hung.

“If they could have been so mad to have grabbed Black people and hung them, they would have,” she said.

Brown expressed that the way mostly white pro-Trump extremists were handled on Wednesday was a stark contrast to how people of color are treated during protests and demonstrations.

“I’m baffled. But at the same time, I am glad that such a disgusting revelation has come into play. Because people needed to see what colorism really is. How it’s really handled. People who are not Black got to see how it really works. Now, they can have true empathy when they see us just trying to fight for basic human rights.”

Through her organization Not My Son, Brown has organized many gatherings where people discuss the kind of accountability and transparency they wish to see from their local law enforcement amid a national reckoning over systemic racism and police violence.

Aaryaman Singhal

Aaryaman Singhal, a founder of the social justice group Sunrise Movement Dallas, holds signs that say 'justice' and 'community.'
Aaryaman Singhal
Aaryaman Singhal, a founder of the social justice group Sunrise Movement Dallas.

Aaryaman Singhal is the founder of the environmental and social justice group, the Sunrise Movement Dallas. He attended seven protests against police brutality this summer and said none of them matched the level of violence he saw in D.C.

“If Black Lives Matter protesters would’ve stormed the Capitol, they probably would be dead,” Singhal said. “And so, [the reaction from law enforcement on Wednesday] is just another reminder of how different people are treated in this country.”

After yesterday’s events, Singhal said that many people in his circle are frustrated, afraid and worried.

“I saw a video of one of the insurrectionists taking a picture with a police officer, and it seems from some of the other videos that police officers were letting the mob into the Capitol,” he said.

“It’s like there are two systems of justice, and two different sorts of responses. I mean, it’s really important that we have the ability to peacefully protest. But the rules have to apply across the board. When people are not peacefully protesting, when they’re threatening elected officials, there has to be a way to stop that.”

He thinks it will take some time to heal from the horrific happenings but adds his group will not be discouraged by the violence at the Capitol.

Singhal said that this summer proved that BIPOC people can unite, build community and not be stopped.

Miguel Solis

a headshot of Miguel Solis with his arms crossed.
Miguel Solis
Miguel Solis is a former educator and board trustee for the Dallas Independent School District. Now, he's the executive director of the Coalition for a New Dallas

Miguel Solis is a former educator and a former board trustee for the Dallas Independent School District. He blames the country’s education system for a lack of civic knowledge and he also partially blames yesterday’s attack on the Capitol on a lack of historical knowledge.

“People don’t know their history,” Solis said. “They don’t understand how democracy works. That’s why these people don’t understand that this election wasn’t stolen.”

The former teacher and current executive director of the Coalition for a New Dallas said “every generation is an opportunity for transparency.” He believes that if we choose to keep young people in the dark about what took place on Wednesday that “maybe we’ll see what we saw yesterday happen again.”

Solis also thinks it is important that we hold our elected officials accountable. “Specifically those who are acting in a way that’s against the expectations we have for elected officials,” said Solis. “You know, the fact that many congressional members from Texas signed on to the challenge of the electoral college certification is appalling to me.”

But he’s even more disturbed by the fact that some of these same politicians haven’t seemed to have learned their lessons. “And today, after we’ve learned that four people have lost their lives on the floor of the temple of American democracy, that they would continue on the House and Senate floor to say the sorts of things that stoked the insurrection — these people need to be held accountable.”

Frederick Douglass Haynes

Frederick Douglass Haynes standing at a podium with a black sign behind him with yellow font.
Keren Carrión | KERA News
Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III. Senior Pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church

When Frederick Douglass Haynes’ congregation unites at church on Sunday, he will share with them the story of the goat and the lion.

A lion and a goat both want water from the watering hole. They fight, fight and fight not to let the other drink. They both grow thirsty. Flying above them a vulture waits.

“We’ve spent so long in this country fighting over who is going to drink from the watering hole first,” Haynes, the pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church said. “Until we realize that we can all drink from this watering hole called democracy and give everyone justice we are going to continue to choose chaos."

He makes the point that white privilege shields some from a police response.

Haynes was arrested in the 80s during a peaceful protest in Washington D.C. He was protesting the U.S.’ involvement and engagement with apartheid in South Africa.

“I will never forget the inhumane way I was treated by the police,” Haynes said. “You can not help as a Black person, recognize the reality of race that we saw yesterday and the fact that the president of this country state an insurrection.”

Haynes said to move forward the nation must follow Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to choose to unite and choose community over chaos.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.
Hady Mawajdeh has been a reporter, producer, and digital editor at KERA since 2016. He is the creator and the co-host of KERA's first narrative podcast, Gun Play. And prior to his work in engagement, he also reported on arts and culture, social justice, and gun rights for the newsroom.