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Why Were BLM Protestors And Capitol Hill Attackers Treated So Differently?

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The fibre of privilege runs deep in our society. So deep, in fact, that a slight ripple in that fibre shakes society to its core. We grew up learning that the colour of the skin was peach. That’s what my kindergarten class and generations before me grew up learning.

“We Never Coloured Our Heroes Brown And That’s Where Racism Began”

And as we, five-year-olds, picked up peach crayons to colour the barbies in our drawing books, not once did we question why we were being taught that a colour we had never seen on anyone was the only right colour one’s skin could be.

Those five year little children never wondered why the colour couldn’t be black or brown and the myriad shades in between, why their colouring books could not resemble their friends and family. Why the country that loves its chai so much despises its colour on their own bodies. We never coloured our heroes brown, and that’s where racism began.

India, America, and the rest of the world still pay for the racial stereotypes that began centuries ago. America, ‘the land of the free and home of the brave’, the most powerful democracy, has failed to stand true to the most basic fundamental of humanity – equality.

Representation Image. The President called rioters “special” when they attacked Capitol because they believed that the elections were fraudulent, a claim intensified by none other than Donald Trump.

While the BlackLivesMatter protestors marching for their right to live were labelled a violent mob, Trump supporters destroying the US Capitol and attacking politicians were celebrated as the heroes America needed. Here’s a look into what went down in America’s hallways of power on January 6, 2021.

The way police treated armed protestors inside the Capitol was in sharp contrast to the brutality BLM activists were subjected to.

A woman protestor, Ashli Babbitt, died after being shot in the chest, 3 others died from medical emergencies, and a total of 52 protestors were arrested. Protestors breached security on Capitol and smashed windows. If you too remember pictures of armed guards on the Capitol stairs during the BLM protests, you know the US Parliament isn’t an unguarded place.

In fact, the entire Congress had gathered in the building to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential elections. The incident occurred when the ‘power of America’ had gathered together, and police officers stood at the gates to guard the Capitol. The crowd carrying Confederate flags occupied the building and created a ruckus on the Capitol grounds.

What Role Did Trump’s Rally Play In The Attack On Capitol Hill?

Police treated BLM protestors and pro-Trump insurrectionists differently. That does not surprise me. It’s in absolute alignment with the centuries-old racial injustice the BLM movement fought against. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used after the protestors had breached the Capitol. The US National Guard was called in several hours after the breach had occurred.

Police treated BLM protestors and pro-Trump insurrectionists differently. That does not surprise me. It’s in absolute alignment with the centuries-old racial injustice the BLM movement fought against

Netizens were quick to compare pictures from the recent BLM protests and the attack on the Capitol yesterday. The difference in the amount of security, arsenal, violence was glaringly different. Let’s not forget this is America, a country always under international press spotlight, a country where the freedom of speech rights of citizens are actually protected by Courts.

This injustice happened in a country where judging by the statistics, it should be most difficult to happen. This draws a sad picture of the worse reality in countries that do not enjoy this global spotlight.

Lawmakers Fled The Capitol After The Armed Mob Breached Security

Americans watched in shock as this mob attempted coup and walked right into the Capitol, while the BLM activists claim they would be battered with pepper balls if they so much as attempted to touch the fence. The crowd first gathered at a rally addressed by Trump. Hours after the rally in Washington DC, his supporters tore down metal barriers at the bottom of Capitol Hill and marched inside.

Both houses of Congress had gathered to certify Joe Biden’s victory. Lawmakers and their staff including the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, fled the scene, escorted by their Secret Service detail.

The glaring question is  – why did Trump organise a rally on the day Biden was to be certified? The rally was addressed by Trump just a few hours earlier and just a few miles away from the US Capitol. Isn’t it safe to say that the President incited his crowd and later sent Tweets to set off the fire after it had already wreaked havoc?

The same President had sent a National security guard against the governor’s wishes when people were protesting for their right to live.

The same President called rioters “special” when they attacked the Capitol because they believed that the elections were fraudulent, a claim intensified by none other than Donald Trump. Twitter and Facebook locked Trump’s account for 12 hours, following the Capitol siege.

By Inciting His Supporters To “March To The Capitol”, Trump Has Proven Just Why He Isn’t Fit To Govern

Biden commented on the incident and stated: “at this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault, an assault of the citadel of liberty, the capital itself.” The siege forced the lockdown of Congress itself, and peaceful transfer of power – the cornerstone of every democracy, suffered yet another setback.

The joint session of both the houses of Congress was adjourned, the safety of duly elected representatives threatened, their offices occupied, threatening notes left in their offices. In my opinion, this incident has provedn exactly why Donald Trump isn’t fit to govern a democracy, the immature tantrums he throws, disrupted everything America stood for, everything past Presidents spent their entire presidencies building, and it took him just 5 years to break it all down.

Popular American personalities, including Republicans, expressed resentment at this attack on the “heart of American democracy“. Chris Evans tweeted, “Just think of the carnage had they not been white”. In June, last year, BLM activists outside the White House were sprayed with tear gas so that Trump could do a photo op outside a church. And today, the Capitol was attacked by an armed mob after Trump called on his supporters to march to the capitol.

If there was any doubt left on the decision to elect Trump out of office, this should do it for America. World leaders have condemned the violence and urged for a peaceful transfer of power. Trump has constantly encouraged conspiracy theories and repeatedly attacked the electoral practice.

This Was Not An Impromptu Event, It Was Planned For Weeks Online

Protestors broke into lawmakers’ offices and left notes, stating they will not back down“.

What’s to be noted is that this was not an impromptu event. It was executed after weeks of planning on online forums. There were clear warnings that staunch Trump supporters could attack Capitol with Trump claiming fallacies in the November 3 elections.

A 2000 member US Capitol police force failed to stop the mob. Other wings of the US Federal security force took hours to arrive to assist in a glaring security fallacy. The limited guard at the Capitol was easily outpowered, and once the protestors were up the stairs, police lost control. The Capitol building has many windows and doors, and thus it was no longer possible to guard all points of entry.

The city force was exceptionally late in arriving for an assist. The police tried to barricade the doors with furniture but were easily outnumbered. National Guard reinforcements, summoned by the city’s mayor, were not mobilized until more than an hour after protesters had first breached the barricades even though these agencies were aggressively deployed by the Trump administration during the BLM movement.

Trump later put out a video urging protestors to go home.” Trump has also agreed to a peaceful transfer of the power as Republicans distance themselves from the attack, unprecedented in the history of independent America.

Featured image source: Copenhagen Post
Image is for representational purposes only
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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