Use of force: Capitol vs. Standing Rock

Trump supporters climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Dalton Walker

Critics across social media point out the juxtaposition between the violent mob at the U.S. Capitol and peaceful Standing Rock water defenders

Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

As a violent mob backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday with what appeared to be relative ease, many in Indian Country took to social media to point out drastic differences of past treatment by law enforcement of water protectors and other peaceful protestors.

In a chaotic scene in Washington, D.C., that lasted for hours, dozens of Trump supporters rushed the famous building, causing lawmakers to scramble for safety and the building to be locked down.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier Wednesday at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Videos posted on social media show a violent mob, many wearing Trump gear, knocking down police barriers and damaging building property. The mob even reached the Senate floor and posed for photos, while one video showed police taking a selfie photo with members of the mob.

One person was shot and killed at the Capitol, The Associated Press reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. Police eventually used tear gas and percussion grenades to clear people from the grounds ahead of a curfew in Washington.

The district’s police chief said at least 13 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the pro-Trump protests. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, of Oklahoma, told ABC News that he was inside and spoke with some of the Trump supporters. A photo posted on social media shows Mullin behind civilian-dressed law enforcement with guns drawn and aimed at the door. “It’s fortunate that a lot more civilians didn’t get shot because (Capitol) police showed a great restraint by not doing so. A great restraint.”

(Related: Pro-Trump mob storms US Capitol)

Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, of Oklahoma, said he was outraged by the “lawless protests," and it’s not the "American way.”

“While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views & peacefully dissent in protest, I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this destructive & violent activity,” Cole said in a tweet.

Critics, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, say at least some of the scene was a stark contrast to what water protectors and treaty defenders have faced over the years, specifically at Standing Rock in 2016, where law enforcement repeatedly used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

In this Dec. 4, 2016 file photo, protesters march at Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. It has been called the largest gathering of Native American tribes in a century. Tribal members and others have joined in an ongoing, tense protest against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux believes threatens sacred sites and a river that provides drinking water for millions of people. The protest is included in the AP top news stories in North Dakota this year. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
In this Dec. 4, 2016, photo, protesters march at Oceti Sakowin camp, where people gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

More than 760 arrests were made in southern North Dakota during the height of protests in 2016 and 2017. At times, thousands of pipeline opponents gathered in the region to protest the $3.8 billion project to move North Dakota oil to Illinois, but the effort didn’t stop the project.

NDN Collective CEO and President Nick Tilsen, who was arrested during a rally against Trump’s visit to the Black Hills in July, didn’t hold back on Twitter.

“If these were Black, Brown and Indigenous people they would of killed us already; read between the lines people,” Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, said in a tweet.

(Related: Indigenous Congress members condemn violence)

Everett Baxter, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska chairman, said Natives speaking their mind get arrested, while the Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., “will probably get pardons.”

Baxter also questioned Nebraska state leaders in their involvement at Standing Rock.

“The Nebraska State Patrol sent officers to aid North Dakota's law enforcement against the water protectors during (the) Standing Rock standoff,” Baxter posted on Facebook. “Will Nebraska do the same to aid the law enforcement of the Washington D.C. riots? Not likely.”

On Twitter, writer, actor and producer Azie Mira Dungey, Pamunkey, called out law enforcement’s response at the Capitol.

“Police literally worked harder to make sure a private company could build an oil pipeline on Native land, and to stop black people from walking through their own neighborhood asking politely not to be murdered, than to stop a few hundred white men from taking over the US Capitol,” Dungey said in a tweet.

Nick Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, is a college professor and host of “The Red Nation” podcast. He responded to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s tweet criticizing the violence. Her post included the comment, “We are all entitled to peacefully protest.”

“What? You pushed laws to criminalize protest in SD and pushed conspiracy theories about stolen election,” Estes said.

Comedian Lucas Brown Eyes, Oglala Lakota, tweeted photos of water protectors being attacked by law enforcement at Standing Rock.

“As we watch Trumpers storm the capital with guns. Just a reminder, this is what America did to Native protesting for clean water,” Brown Eyes said.

Here are more posts from Indian Country:

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Comments (11)
No. 1-7

Great comments on the sickening indulgence of those Trump-cultist thugs. And beware of the gaslighting going on in the right-wing media, false-hearted commenters saying things like, "Oh, they don't look like Trump supporters, Trump supporters wouldn't do anything so bad as that, they must be antifa in disguise" -- with no evidence at all.


It was disgusting, and I couldn't watch because of the assault on democracy being egged on by the president as well as the stark contrast to what was done to us at Standing Rock for trying to protect water on our own land.


Remember, it’s bc OUR enemies are NOT Russian, Middle Eastern, Chinese or North Korean? OUR enemies have been here on OUR LANDS since ca.1492!!


Not comparing Standing Rock to the DC rioting , The pipeline was a privately funded "army " , sponsored by the oil companies, building the Obama Army Core of Engineers approved pipeline-the treatment was uncalled for and courage the young and old showed in standing up to them. it was not a political moment. We can look at the past days events as political, thry were excersizing the same protesting , demonstrative behavior, we saw earlier in the summer, when pro Democrat , anti Trump, rioters burned the church across from the WH, threatening to storm the WH, if able, there were days, of looting, destruction. that are passed off as "activist protesting social injustice" but the rampant disregard for laws, property, was the same..ignoring the duplicity that is growing in post election America, affects every one today and generations to come. theDuplicity breeds contempt, resentment, because the Trump supporters were demonstrating under the same rights and auspices, that the BLM rioters were.the reality , the bulk of rioting was anti -Trump, people , with the same intent..


I'm not making this comment as a pro Trump, but as supporting the Constitutionally designated system, for Presidential election,that A day in November be set aside for the country to vote for each individual choice. It was the premise of free elected officials in 1792, that was "new" to the world, and ended the Royal appointments of everything... In using Covid 19 as an excuse, the Democrats greatly altered, the basic way, America voted.with technology- online registration ,scanners, mail in voting ,at a mass level, never before thought acceptable. America could have saved a billion dollars or more in postage, printing , overtime handling ,and not screwing up the postal system, as it is at the moment. A ten day "in person" vote, would have saved the expense and provided a definitive result. , unchallengeable tally, by the existing machine system, that billions were spent on after Al Gore, lost in 2000...That is the core issue that cannot be resolved by media pressure and political newsfeeds-because they believe Joe Biden couldn't win straight up in person vote in the contested swing states. true or not, will remain unknown forever. We've had the same contested results when Hillary lost, that "she won" and Resist" movement began, Russian accusations turned into a House probe, our political structure has been overwhelmed for 4 years , in attempts to pre maturely ,alter the results of 2016 election. The media has full documentation of this, they created a bigger problem, throwing gas on the fire daily. ..We can't find "Unity" in allowing the media to use Trump supporters as a scapegoat to fill the newsfeeds daily, to satiate the resentment that the 4 years of media manipulation have created. We can't have "Unity " without letting go of the last 4 years. I'm afraid, honestly, that's not about to happen. The Duplicity being created by the Democrats politics, the media output , won't allow it to end. and move to work together. it may be too late for the politics to treat each other with respect. Imagine if instead of tearing Trump down daily for 4 years, they had worked together, to find common ground, ? but ww witnssed the media, manipulating Hillary's loss, whipping the country into a feeding frenzy , that's now becoming detrimental to everyone's future

Frances Madeson
Frances Madeson

Great piece. wish it would've updated on Rattler, Dion, Angry Bird, Red Fawn and Little Feather. To various degrees they are still subject to the carceral apparatus--Rattler got COVID in Sandstone! None of them is free and clear yet. Hope Indian Country Today hasn't forgotten about them.


Who would have guessed, the difference. 400 years same crap