Philadelphia mayor blasts double standard in policing of Black and White protesters

Key Points
  • Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney criticized law enforcement's response to Wednesday's U.S. Capitol invasion, saying Black protesters would not have received the same treatment.
  • "Could you imagine thousands of Black people, people of color, invading the Capitol — what would have happened to them yesterday?" he said on "Squawk Alley."
  • Kenney said that the Democratic and Republican national conventions that were held in Philadelphia in 2016 and 2020, respectively, were better prepared for disruptors than Congress was to certify votes from a divisive election.
Trump is 'mentally deranged' and 25th Amendment should be considered, says Philadelphia mayor
Trump is 'mentally deranged' and 25th Amendment should be considered, says Philadelphia mayor

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, reacting to the violence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, drew a stark contrast between how government and police respond to demonstrations held by Black protesters and White protesters.

Kenney, appearing Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," said the months of protests last year that sprang from the police killings of unarmed Black people did not receive the same "tenor or flavor" of response as the mostly white pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday as lawmakers worked to confirm the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election.

"Could you imagine thousands of Black people, people of color, invading the Capitol — what would have happened to them yesterday?" the Democrat, who is White, asked.

The death of George Floyd, a Black father who was killed last spring as a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while making an arrest, sparked mostly peaceful protests in cities across the country, including Philadelphia and Washington, through 2020. Those demonstrations against police brutality often included standoffs with riot police, the presence of U.S. National Guard members and counter-protesters. Some did result in violence and looting.

In one incident in June, armed members of the D.C. National Guard wearing camouflage were staged at the Lincoln Memorial during a peaceful protest against police brutality.

That same day, police and National Guard troops forcefully dispersed peaceful protesters at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House to make way for Trump to hold a Bible for a photo op at St. John's Church.

Members of the D.C. National Guard stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as demonstrators participate in a peaceful protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 2, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

Many politicians and media personalities are speaking out on the divergent use of law enforcement in the Capitol protest and the Black Lives Matter rallies that took place last year. MSNBC's Joy Reid also compared it to rallies against police brutality held in the last decade in cities including Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.

"White Americans are never afraid of the cops, even when they are committing insurrection, even when they are engaged in attempting to occupy our Capitol to steal the votes of people who look like me, because in their mind, they own this Capitol; they own the cops," said Reid, who is Black. She hosts the weekday show "The ReidOut."

"I guarantee if that was a Black Lives Matter protest, there would be people shackled, arrested or dead," she added.

Four people lost their lives during the incident in Washington, including a woman fatally shot by Capitol police. Almost 68 people connected to the chaos were arrested, according to D.C. police. Capitol police say 14 people were arrested, primarily for unlawful entry. Buildings were placed on lockdown and lawmakers evacuated as participants clashed with police, roamed the federal campus, destroyed property and occupied congressional chambers and offices.

Some wielded Confederate flags.

A supporter of President Donald Trump carries a Conferderate battle flag on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol near the entrance to the Senate after breaching security defenses, in Washington, January 6, 2021.
Mike Theiler | Reuters

Rioters had already occupied the Capitol building, delaying the electoral count for hours, before D.C. National Guard was sent to help secure the campus.

"Some of these law enforcement folks were taking selfies with them," Kenney said. "How did they get through bicycle barricades?"

President Donald Trump instigated the events of the day during his Save America rally near the White House, where he urged supporters to head to the Capitol to protest the vote certification in Congress, which was led by Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump has made baseless claims of widespread voter fraud since losing reelection to President-elect Joe Biden in November and has instructed his ardent followers not to accept the vote results.

The president has claimed without proof that Philadelphia, a city of more than 1.5 million that is about 44% Black and 45% white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was one of multiple swing-state cities with large Black populations that rigged the election against him.

The city voted overwhelmingly for Biden, helping him win Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes. Trump had flipped the state red in the 2016 election cycle.

U.S. President Donald Trump's supporters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.
Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In Washington on Wednesday, unarmed National Guard members were initially deployed to assist in directing traffic and supporting local police with crowd control.

Kenney recalled that the Democratic and Republican national conventions, which were held in the city in 2016 and 2020, respectively, had better security than was deployed in Washington, even though officials had time to prepare for the demonstrations.

"We had barriers that you couldn't get over, you know, with a pole vault if you tried, and there were heavy-duty, heavy-gauged barriers that kept people away from the Wells Fargo Center because of the event," Kenney said of the two conventions.

He highlighted how pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol by jumping over barriers, walking up the steps and walking into the building armed.

"I think that's much worse for the country," he said.