The Key Differences between the January Insurrection and BLM protests

Sierra Welsch Opinion Feb 14, 2021

January 6th, 2021 will go down as a very tragic day in American history: on this day thousands of Trump supporters and members of far-right groups broke into the U.S. Capitol and conducted an armed raid. This was not only a threat to the lives of all who were in the building, but also a major threat to our democracy. That day, all congressmen and women were gathered on Capitol Hill to certify Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, although many Republicans were planning to challenge the validity of the election. These challengers claimed there had been voter fraud, although no evidence of any significant voter fraud had been proven true.

While these claims may have been false, challenging the validity of votes is within the power of the members of Congress, and if there had been enough evidence proving voter fraud, they could have overturned the states' results. However, breaking into a public government building, demolishing government officials’ offices, and stealing confidential documents are acts of terrorism.

Although the majority of Americans condemned the violence at Capitol Hill, there were some that called these people who condemned the violence hypocritical, claiming the Black Lives Matter protests and riots led to similar harmful effects. Considering the attack on January 6th only occurred once, this is most likely true when simply comparing casualty numbers. However, the BLM protests and riots fighting for racial equality were not a one-time event, and thus casualty numbers cannot be compared.

The Black Lives Matter organization’s goal is to speak out about racial injustices, police brutality, and systematic racism in an efficient and peaceful manner.  According to USA Today, 93% of the BLM protests this summer were peaceful, but many still believe those 7% of protests that turned violent represent the entire movement—even though the organization has made it clear they do not condone violence.

Many of the people involved in the Capitol attack were a part of terrorist-like organizations including members of QAnon (a far-right conspiracy group who believe all Democrats are pedophiles and seek to hunt them down), and the Proud Boys (a white supremist group dedicated to committing violence against minorities), and Neo-Nazis (an anti-semetic group that agree with the Nazi party’s values).  The people breaking into the capitol building were fighting to reject the results of a fair election that had been fact checked and proven to be non-fraudulent by several sources such as USA Today, the New York Times, and AP News. These protestors also chanted the phrase “hang Vice President Mike Pence” after the VP declared he wouldn't be challenging the results of the election. Furthermore, the protestors were armed to kill/threaten Congressmen who did not want to challenge the results of the election. This was a serious threat to our democracy.

Although some Republicans have claimed that the BLM protests were equivalent in destruction to the attack on Capitol Hill, the way police dealt with these attacks couldn't have been more different.  Many videos have been released showing police seemingly inviting the armed, mostly white rioters into the Capitol—even taking pictures with them—and only kindly suggested that they leave when some reached the Senate wing. It was clear the police viewed these people as  and non-threatening protestors. This is in stark contrast to the harsh ways the police treated the Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer. Many peaceful BLM protests were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, and arrests.  Some protests even resulted in innocent bystanders being beaten to the ground by the police after they were mistaken for being peaceful protesters exercising their right to freedom of speech.

Last June (June 2nd 2020), Donald Trump issued the National Guard to stand on the steps of Lincoln Memorial during a peaceful protest of the death of George Floyd, who the police killed by kneeling on his neck for 7 minutes. During this insurrection, the mayor of Washington D.C, Muriel Bowser, requested the National Guard after rioters started climbing the walls of the Capitol. The National Guard declined and it was not until several hours later that they decided to arrive because they didn’t see the violent actions of these extremists as a “serious threat” even though they viewed BLM peaceful protests in this way.  The evident contrast in police response on January 6th compared to the BLM protests show how deeply white supremacy is rooted in our government systems.  If these rioters were a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, the situation would have been handled far more differently.

BLM Protestors January 6 Protestors
Motivated by concerns over policy brutality and racial justice Motivated by concern over legitimacy of election results; spurred on by conspiracy theories
Violence was not the aim of gathering; peaceful protest was (93% of protests were peaceful). Violent tactics and physical intimidation intentions were expressed in mob; many members came armed
Not a terror group; does not include ANTIFA White Supremacist and Facist groups were present
National Guard and police deployed in anticipated protest locations National Guard and police deployed late and easily overwhelmed
Protestors shot with rubber bullets; they were also beaten and arrested 1 woman shot; others tear gassed


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