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.