bookmark_borderThe real double standard between Capitol and BLM protests

One of the most disturbing and infuriating things I’ve ever witnessed is the media’s and society’s promulgation of the myth that the pro-Trump protesters at the U.S. Capitol were somehow treated more leniently than Black Lives Matter protesters have been. This is one of the most blatantly false ideas I have ever heard, and it has been expressed over and over again, ad nauseam, by people across all forms of media and social media.

Coverage of the recent happenings at the Capitol is so offensive to me that I haven’t been able to read and analyze a huge amount of articles on this topic. But this article by USA Today provides an overview of the BLM/Capitol protest comparisons made by various public figures. I am going to attempt to explain why these comments and statements are wrong and unjust.

The article itself describes how during the BLM protests last spring and summer, “law enforcement often clashed with demonstrators, deploying tear gas and rubber bullets, bruising faces and bodies, and, in one incident that went viral, pushing an elderly man to the ground.” Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, gave a similar characterization of events: “When Black folks are protesting and progressives are protesting peacefully they were tear-gassed, they were arrested, they were shot with rubber bullets. They were shot with real bullets. We should not be witnessing what we are witnessing today in this nation. It’s a global embarrassment. None of this took place.”

This, to use a very technical philosophy term, is complete and utter baloney. First of all, no Black Lives Matter protesters have been shot by police. Johnson’s reference to being “shot with real bullets” seems to refer to the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, a counter-protestor who killed two BLM protesters in defense of himself and local business owners whose property the protesters were destroying. Because Rittenhouse was a private citizen and not a police officer, this shooting has no relevance to the topic of the respective police responses to the BLM and Capitol protests. Additionally, how can Johnson claim with a straight face, with regard to tear gas and arrests, that “none of this took place”? Over 100 of the pro-Trump protesters were, indeed, arrested and charged with crimes, and over 200 are being investigated by the FBI for federal felonies such as sedition and conspiracy. Suspects have been hunted down all over the country, and law enforcement is widely publicizing surveillance footage in an attempt to identify even more suspects. Not to mention the fact that one of the protesters, Ashli Babbitt, was killed by a police officer, and two more protesters lost their lives due to mysterious causes during the conflict with police. And all of this despite the fact that the actions of the BLM protesters – destroying countless innocent people’s businesses and countless beautiful, irreplaceable historical statues – were vastly more deserving of punishment than the actions of the pro-Trump protesters at the Capitol. Johnson is (kind of) right about one thing: how leniently BLM protesters have been treated compared to pro-Trump protesters is indeed a global embarrassment.

On a similar note, Bernice King, the daughter of MLK, tweeted: “If this were Black Lives Matter storming the Capitol, tanks would have been in the city by now. The response tells the story of our nation’s racist history and present.” There is absolutely no evidence that tanks would have responded to a hypothetical protest in which BLM protesters entered the Capitol, and the leniency with which such protesters have been treated as they smashed, decapitated, and burned priceless works of art all across the country for months is strong evidence against King’s claim.

Adding to the ridiculousness, CNN commentator Van Jones tweeted: “Imagine if #BlackLivesMatter were the ones who were storming the Capitol building. Thousands of black people laying siege to the seat of government – in the middle of a joint session of Congress? Just imagine the reaction.” I can indeed imagine the reaction. It would not have involved a protester being shot to death by police. It would not have involved hundreds of protesters (or any protesters, for that matter) being hunted down, arrested, and charged with federal crimes. Instead, it would have involved those protesters being unanimously praised as brave, selfless, and heroic by the media, politicians, and society.

Joe Biden voiced similar sentiments, saying, “No one can tell me that if that had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.” And Rep. Marcia Fudge claimed, “There is a double standard.” These statements are indeed true, but in the opposite way from what the speakers intended. As a side note, there is also a double standard in terms of how presidents are treated by the media and by society. Why is it that Biden has received zero criticism for referring to protesters who disagree with him as a “mob of thugs,” while Trump was ruthlessly attacked as unprofessional and un-presidential for far less insulting rhetoric?

“We have witnessed two systems of justice: one that let extremists storm the U.S. Capitol yesterday, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protestors last summer,” tweeted Kamala Harris. “It’s simply unacceptable.” Actually, the two systems of justice that we have witnessed are one that let people smash beautiful statues to pieces and another that hunted down and arrested hundreds of people, and killed one person, for entering the Capitol building. These disparate systems of justice are indeed unacceptable, but in the opposite way from what Harris meant.

“It’s not any shock that we see this huge contradiction that we can storm a capitol, break into elected officials’ offices, the chamber, and create other chaos trying to perform a fascist coup, and we see little to no consequences,” said activist Kofi Ademola. “But Black protesters here in D.C. and Chicago, we’re heavily policed, brutalized, for literally saying, ‘Don’t kill us.’ There was no planned insurrections. We were literally just advocating for our lives. It speaks volumes about the values of this country. It doesn’t care about our lives.”

This statement is preposterous. As I have already explained, one protestor who entered the Capitol was shot to death and hundreds were hunted down, arrested, and charged with federal crimes. Even the thousands of pro-Trump protesters who made no attempt to enter the Capitol have been shunned as pariahs, fired from their jobs, and received death threats. How can Ademola claim that this constitutes “little to no consequences”? Nothing could be further from the truth. His claim that the pro-Trump protesters were “trying to perform a fascist coup” is equally ridiculous. Countless photos and videos show the protesters carrying Gadsden flags and Confederate flags, emblems of rebellion, liberty, and resistance to authority. This alone is sufficient to prove that the protesters were attempting the exact opposite of a fascist coup. The protesters at the Capitol are the true anti-fascists, ironically a distinction that the left-wing group Antifa claims to hold. Also ridiculous is Ademola’s claim that BLM protesters were “literally just advocating for our lives.” BLM protesters have destroyed countless businesses, buildings, and statues. In what universe is advocating for the destruction of other people’s property and precious works of art considered the same thing as advocating for one’s life? This country certainly seems to care about the lives of these protesters, given the fact that it allows them to brutalize works of art all across the country without making any attempt to stop them or punish them in any way.

And the Black Lives Matter Global Network said in a statement: “When Black people protest for our lives, we are all too often met by National Guard troops or police equipped with assault rifles, shields, tear gas and battle helmets. When white people attempt a coup, they are met by an underwhelming number of law enforcement personnel who act powerless to intervene, going so far as to pose for selfies with terrorists, and prevent an escalation of anarchy and violence like we witnessed today. Make no mistake, if the protesters were Black, we would have been tear-gassed, battered, and perhaps shot.”

The last statement is false for reasons that I have explained above and also completely ignores that fact that one of the pro-Trump protesters, Ashli Babbitt, actually was shot. The characterization of BLM protesters as protesting “for our lives” is inaccurate for reasons that I have also explained above. Additionally, the reference to “white people attempt[ing] a coup” is not only false but also racist. The pro-Trump protest comprised people of all races. (For example, a picture in this gallery from the aftermath of the protest shows a baseball cap that reads “Black Voices for Trump.”)

So in conclusion, there is indeed an inconsistency between the reactions of law enforcement, as well as the media, tech companies, and society in general, to the BLM protests versus the pro-Trump protest in Washington, D.C. The double standard is precisely the opposite of what most people think it is. Seeing mobs brutally destroy beautiful works of art representing historical heroes with almost complete impunity, and then seeing pro-liberty protesters being hunted down, arrested, personally insulted, ostracized, fired, and slandered as fascists and terrorists for standing up to government overreach, is so unjust that it makes my soul cry out in agony.

bookmark_borderAthletes’ boycott is inconsistent and illogical

The world is finally emerging from a government-ordered lockdown during which countries, states, and cities forbade their citizens from leaving their homes for anything other than necessities. A more severe, wide-reaching violation of people’s rights can hardly be imagined. 

Yet because of an incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin in which Jacob Blake was shot by police officers, the NBA, NHL, and MLB have decided to cancel their games as a form of protest. I do not mean to minimize the injustice of what happened to Jacob Blake. Obviously, being shot and paralyzed as a result is absolutely horrible, and he did not deserve for this to happen. But I disagree with the claims by the Black Lives Matter movement that incidents like this are symptomatic of an overarching trend of systemic racism. Like the equally unjust and tragic killing of George Floyd, this was an isolated incident. It is being investigated, and if any of the officers involved are found to have acted wrongly, they will be punished. The shooting of Jacob Blake is being handled the way it should be. 

So why did so many athletes boycott their games in response to this but not in response to issues that are actually important? 

As a result of demands by its athletes, the NBA agreed to postpone all of yesterday’s and today’s playoff games. The NHL called off today’s playoff games, and MLB postponed three games yesterday and seven games today after some players decided to sit out and their teammates and managers backed them. 

Contrast this with the complete lack of reaction when the majority of states in the U.S. enacted stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, banning all people within those states from traveling, going to parks, doing outdoor activities, getting together with other people, and operating businesses. Did any professional athlete express any opposition whatsoever to these tyrannical policies that violate every person’s rights on a massive scale? If so, the media has done a good job of keeping it secret. 

As another example of an issue that merits widespread protests, take the barbaric destruction of buildings, businesses, and worst of all, statues that has been perpetrated by protesters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement across the country. Why have no professional athletes taken a stand against these violations of people’s rights? Why has no one pledged to boycott games until the vandalized statues are restored and protected?

It’s not only recent injustices that merit protests. Why have no athletes protested against technology companies’ constant tracking of everyone’s internet activities? This practice violates every person’s privacy rights. Why did no athletes protest the deployment of full-body scanners at airports in 2010, also violating every traveler’s privacy rights? Why did no athletes protest when the federal government passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, requiring all people to purchase health insurance? This law violates every person’s right to decide what to do with his or her own money. And why did no one protest the passage of the Durham-Humphrey Amendment in 1951, requiring each person to get a doctor’s permission before being allowed to purchase medications? This law violates every person’s right to make his or her own medical decisions. I could continue listing examples until this blog post became as long as a novel, but I think you get the point.

All of these issues are more important, and more deserving of protests, than an isolated incident of police brutality. The decision by so many basketball, hockey, and baseball players to boycott games over one instance of injustice while completely ignoring others is illogical, inconsistent, unjust, and unfair. Their gesture is meaningful to Jacob Blake and those who care about him, but it is a slap in the face to all those people who are negatively affected by other types of injustice. 

bookmark_borderDestroying other people’s property is not OK (even if it’s a $30,000 purse)

While browsing around the internet recently, I came across this story about a woman who is suing a country club for negligence because a waiter spilled wine on her $30,000 purse. The country club responded by filing a cross-claim against the waiter, its own employee.

This incident happened when Maryana Beyder and her husband were dining at the Alpine Country Club in New Jersey last year. It is unclear whether the waiter spilled the wine intentionally or not. “Whoever the waiter was proceeded to pour red wine and didn’t stop,” said Beyder’s lawyer. “Poured it all over her. Poured it all over her husband. And poured it all over a very expensive Hermes bag.” The lawyer expressed disappointment with the country club’s suit against the waiter, saying “There was never any intention of my client to go after this person at all. The only intention was to have the employer take responsibility.”

In my opinion, the waiter is the person who should have to pay for the damage to the purse. After all, the waiter is the person who caused the damage.

Continue reading “Destroying other people’s property is not OK (even if it’s a $30,000 purse)”

bookmark_borderBack pay for federal workers is an issue of fairness

Since the government shutdown (temporarily, at least) came to an end, Representative Ayanna Pressley introduced a bill – known as the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act – which would provide back pay to  contract employees just like those who work directly for the federal government.

“This is about dignity, this is about fairness, this is about justice,” Pressley said.

I agree with this statement, but not in the way Pressley meant it. True fairness would be for none of the employees furloughed during the shutdown to receive back pay.

After all, during the five weeks the federal government was shut down, neither contract employees nor federal employees were working. For them to get paid as if they were working this entire time is not fair to all of the other workers across the country – in the private sector and for state and local governments – who were not affected by the shutdown. It is even less fair to the government employees, such as TSA agents and air traffic controllers, who were forced to work without pay during the shutdown. Nor is it fair to taxpayers for the government to take their hard-earned money and use it to pay people for work they did not perform.

Yes, it is inconvenient to suddenly be furloughed from work. For people who do not have savings in the bank, it can be difficult or impossible to pay bills. But there is no right to receive continuous employment and pay from the federal government. The government has every right to discontinue, either temporarily or permanently, any federal job(s). This is disappointing for the affected employees, but it is a risk that people assume when they work for the federal government. There is nothing unfair about  it.

Additionally, for people to temporarily or permanently lose their jobs is something that happens in the private sector all the time and is not treated as a tragedy but simply part of the economy. Every day, companies go out of business, lay off workers, cut their hours, or furlough them based on changing market conditions. The vast majority of time, newspapers do not run front page articles about the suffering faced by these workers and their families. Restaurants did not offer free meals to racetrack employees when it was announced that Suffolk Downs lost out on the casino license and was going to be closing. No one has suggested paying workers at the now-closed Necco plant for all the weeks they would be working had the factory remained open. But that’s exactly what is happening for federal employees. Being out of work is a hardship for anyone. Why should government workers be exempt?

Supporters of back pay say that government employees should be compensated for the wages that they missed out on. But giving people full pay for not working goes way beyond compensating them. It is the equivalent of giving them five extra weeks of paid vacation. It is a windfall, a boon, a reward, a huge extra benefit, delivered at taxpayers’ expense and denied to the federal employees forced to work without pay as well as to all other workers across the country. Furloughed government employees got to have five weeks of free time, which they could spend pursuing their hobbies, resting, exercising, or doing anything they wanted. True, they did not choose this free time and most would likely have preferred to continue working than to miss out on their paychecks. But this does not change the fact that to pay them for this time is completely unfair to everyone else who spent the time working.

bookmark_borderDismissal of inauguration protest charges is a defeat for justice

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia recently dismissed charges against all remaining people arrested for the destructive protests against President Trump on his inauguration day. Originally, 234 people were arrested for allegedly participating in acts of vandalism that included setting fires and smashing storefronts with bricks and crowbars, resulting in injuries to 6 police officers. Some of those defendants pleaded guilty, some went to trial and were either acquitted or had hung juries, and the rest had their charges dismissed.

The reason why so many of these people were allowed to go free makes sense: the government was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the people arrested were actually the people who committed the acts of vandalism. Videos from body cameras, cell phones, and security cameras were not clear enough for jurors to definitively identify the vandals, and the defendants successfully argued that they were just protesting peacefully and shouldn’t be blamed for other people’s actions.

However, it still remains true that someone set the fires and smashed the storefronts in Washington, D.C. on inauguration day. And it’s a defeat for justice and fairness that the people who did that – aside from one defendant who was sentenced to 4 months in prison – will escape punishment.

The wrongfulness of the vandals’ conduct has been largely ignored by anti-Trump folks in their celebration of the dismissal of the charges. For example, Natasha Lennard at The Intercept praises the protesters’ “united front” which “meant the government could not weaponize co-defendants to bolster their weak case.” She mentions that the innocent defendants must have been tempted to “assert that they were in fact the law-abiding ‘good protesters,’ while actively condemning and drawing attention to the actions of a few window-breakers” and praises their decision not to do this.

But condemning the actions of the window-breakers is exactly what the other protesters should be doing. To destroy the property of innocent people is morally wrong. By failing to condemn the property damage, the anti-Trump movement is essentially saying that the property damage is okay. No one should be okay with, or want to be associated with, people who decided that their hatred of Trump and his policies was more important than the rights of innocent people.

The arrested protesters complain about the “trauma” that they have “suffered,” but did any of them think for a second about the suffering of the innocent people whose property was destroyed?

Countless people have been arrested and imprisoned for “victimless crimes” that should not be crimes at all, such as drug use, driving without a license, gun possession without a license, and failure to pay taxes. Destroying innocent people’s property, on the other hand, is precisely the type of action that the legal system was created to punish. It’s unfortunate that in this case, there wasn’t enough evidence to determine with certainty who perpetrated the barbaric actions of inauguration day. But that doesn’t make those actions any less wrong. As D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said, “In the American criminal justice system, sometimes the bad guys win. That’s what happened in this case.”