January 6th, the day “protesting” took a dark turn. The Capitol, the heart of American lawmaking, was stormed by force and the sacred corridors of justice and democracy ransacked and ravaged.
On that morning, thousands of Trump supporters amassed to join what was initially intended as a peaceful rally before events began to skew out of control. Significant numbers began to march down Pennsylvania Avenue, towards the Capitol, the mood darkening and becoming more inflamed. The aim of the protesters was simple: to disrupt the Electoral College’s vote, in order to delay President Trump’s removal from office.
Needless to say, the day descended into what will surely become regarded as a dark stain on American history and politics. The protestors turned into an angry baying mob, shouting “where’s Nancy?”, invading offices, and stealing precious and classified Capitol articles.
These people entered the Capitol illegally, forced lawmakers to quarantine, but incredibly, in some elements of the right wing conservative press are still called “protesters”. To some this has moved beyond some kind of demented partisan joke to something a whole lot more sinister. Peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in June were labeled “riots” by many and this has raised discussion and debate as to how much influence the press has on our perception of events. To what extent is the press helping to sustain systemic racism and discrimination? What, we need to ask, is the media trying to communicate? The BLM movement was non-violent, with protestors knowing that unprovoked violence was not only illegal but undesirable.
I can understand the media’s view to a certain point. Admittedly, the BLM protests were followed with mass looting and chaos, but these were riots, organised by people using the BLM’s voice as a scapegoat. It was pure manipulation, and the media should have seen through it. It is their job to deliver accurate news, but they have failed us and it is fair to question whether it is a deliberate failing or not.
Moreover, it is not just the press whose response differed wildly. The police response too was vastly different. BLM protesters were sent running as federal agents released gas and fired rubber bullets at them. What about the capitol rioters on the other hand? No federal agents called. No rubber bullets. No gas. The Capitol Police were overrun, beaten, and badly prepared. Some officers appeared to show no resistance, letting rioters leave the building without being arrested.
We live in the 21st century, a world of complexity and nuance, but we still don’t or won’t understand the difference between a riot and a protest?
Dear media, dear police, next time, before you go out of your way to brand and label events, perhaps it would be a good idea to check with the dictionary first.