Source: ABC News
“Insurrection,” “coup,” “attack on Democracy.” are all terms that have been used to describe the recent surge of Trump supporters that raided the United States capitol in Washington DC. It is the opinion of the writers of this article that this event should be called “an unsurprising occurrence.”
As is already well known, on January 6th, 2021, “hundreds of Trump supporters” made their way to DC, with plans to protest the electoral confirmation happening that day. A select few raided the US capitol by breaching security lines, and infiltrated the building while Congress was in session to certify the electoral votes that would cement President-Elect Biden’s victory, and President Trump’s defeat. This movement was certainly incited by Trump and other Republican figures, who have continued to spread false and unfounded claims that voter fraud was evident in the 2020 election, which would explain the results and Trump’s loss. The participants had immoral and violent intentions, with some claiming they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence and actually threatened US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
To contrast, the many protests we’ve seen this past summer concerning the Black Lives Matter movement, didn’t have any intention of killing or targeting a specific person, nor were they practiced in the direct support of one person making baseless claims. The evidence was clear: the hours of cell phone and body cam footage that showed brutality from police officers on unarmed Black folk.
Following the death of George Floyd, which was in fact caused by law enforcement, hundreds of protests were held in cities across the country. While protests were peaceful, police met protestors with tear gas, brutality, and arrests. However, last week at the US capitol, there was no tear gas, no military-grade ammunition, no armored soldiers. The reaction was passive and accommodating.
We see blatant discrimination in the reactions of law enforcement to these collective actions. In the case of Black Lives Matter, it was majority Black protestors raising awareness around police brutality. In the case of the Capitol riots, it was a majority white group, dangerously irate about a non-existent, politically driven narrative. One group faced constant abridgment to their First Amendment right to protest, while the other acted as they pleased. While white supremacists have, since this country’s founding, used the Constitution as their shield, that document has forsaken Black people for 400 years.
In comparison: there were over 19 deaths and about 14,000 people arrested in the Black Lives Matter protests, while in the US capitol riot only 5 people died, and about 100 people got arrested on the spot.
The recent violence at the nation’s Capitol, although shocking and unexpected, was not surprising to many viewers. This is because this country has had a history of turning a blind eye to acts of aggression from white nationalists and Alt-Right, Trump devotees. It is common for an initially peaceful demonstration of protest to turn into violence, however the reaction to that violence is not always as predictable.
In some cases, the protests are met with accommodating and amicable law enforcement, who dismiss the violent acts. This is shown in the Capitol police officers that “took a selfie with someone who was part of the mob” (Nickeas). On top of this blatant act, most rioters were not wearing face masks or coverings, which is already starting to have a negative health effect on the country.
On the other hand, during this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, there were calls to not share any photos with a protester’s face, “[d]oing so, many fear, would make it easier for police to identify the protesters — and then, potentially, surveil them, harass them, or arrest them” (Aggeler). All protesters were asked to wear face masks for protection against recognition, as well as protection against COVID-19, which sources say did not face a spike in cases due to the protests
We live in a country where one group of First Amendment exercisers felt comfortable enough to take pictures with the law, and another group were so scared of the law they didn’t even want pictures of themselves. There was a perceived notion of criminality that hung over the BLM protests, that was not evident at the Capitol riot. BLM protesters were more inclined to feel as if they were doing something wrong.
This might be because of the images we were bombarded with in mainstream news. While BLM protests were largely peaceful, mainstream media, like this Fox News photo below, only showed violent images, associating protestors with rioters.
This photo uses the headline to make an association between “protesters” and the fire. The diction used created an understanding among conservative followers, as well as their leaders, that protests for BLM were bad and always led to riots.
Mainstream media also represented protests for racial justice with videos of law enforcement and the National Guard, armed with tear gas and riot shields, as if the country was at war with a threat that needed to be neutralized, by any means necessary. In contrast, media coverage of the Capitol riots showed Capitol police officers, those that would usually be on patrol duty, armed only with pepper spray (which ended up backfiring), refusing to use their night sticks.
The first BLM protests in DC were sparked last minute, and were met with an overly prepared National Guard. ProPublica states that “for weeks, the far-right supporters of President Donald Trump” had planned their actions. “They openly discussed the idea of violent protest on the day Congress met to certify the result” (Jaffe).
While this seems to be a fatal flaw in our country and the systems used to run it, there is one way to begin the road to improvement: call. it. out. The solution is to acknowledge the problem, instead of trying to insist it doesn’t exist. Former Attorney General William Barr, who was, at the time, the highest ranking figure in the United States Justice Department, says he does not believe America has a race problem.
This is fundamentally incorrect.
An entire article could be written on America’s race problem, but it’s sufficient to say that the stark contrast between the treatment of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters and malicious Capitol rioters, is evidence enough of a race problem in America. Of course, that may be hard to admit for America-loving Americans. Those that love this country would rather die with its faults than anguish in its truths. However, it is the utmost sign of patriotism to take every step and opportunity to seek improvement for this nation. Acknowledging the issues we face, reconciling with those that have suffered from them, and working together to move forward in spite of them. That’s what real patriotism is.
Remain focused on what the groups are fighting for. Four days after Trump supporters surged on the national’s capitol over false claims of voter fraud, another unarmed Black man suffering from mental health issues was shot and killed in front of his own home in Killeen, Texas. The unjust killing of Patrick Warren on January 10, 2021 is the reason for the frustration and anger that causes violence at Black Lives Matter protests in the first place. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and many other lawmakers and their lies were the cause of violence at the Capitol.
In order to combat the negative perceptions that certain racial groups face, which leads to asymmetric policing habits, we call for the individual to paint an accurate picture of the circumstances that are occurring. This means not relying on one news–biased–source for information. It means not making general and false statements. Instead of continuing to claim that “The protests caused a Target to be burned down,” a more accurate description would say “after peaceful protests occurred, a violent group caused destruction at a Target.” This is the ethical responsibility of the media. We call on the mainstream media to stop giving these politicians their 15 minutes of fame on the repeated news cycles, and to focus on the actual people that are suffering from and seeking to defeat injustice in this country.
On a more structural level, we make demands for institutional changes within the country’s justice system. This is a system that excuses and covers up murderous acts committed by law enforcement. This is a system that foists more police while offering less resources in underprivileged and minority communities. Until we make significant changes in the law of the land, hypocrisy and contradiction will continue to plague this “democracy” our nation touts.