The double standard for protesters

In May 2020, many gathered together to protest for George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody. As protests erupted across the United States, citizens were met with violence from the police. 

Now that Joe Biden has been sworn in as president, there has been outrage from those upset with former President Trump’s loss. This frustration spiraled into the recent events at the U.S. Capitol where rioters forced their way into the building. 

Although both of these events required police intervention at times, many have noticed the two crowds were met with very different approaches. 

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have produced incidents where members who were peacefully protesting were treated in a harmful or harsher-than-necessary manner by the police. 

For example, law enforcement used pepper balls, smoke canisters and batons to clear Washington’s Lafayette Square of BLM protesters for an alleged photo op involving former President Trump, according to ABC News

On the other hand, far-right rioters blatantly planned violence weeks in advance. Yet, there were significantly fewer citizens harmed by law enforcement during the Capitol attacks than at the BLM protests.

According to a ProPublica article, a post read, “If this does not change, then I advocate, Revolution and adherence to the rules of war. I say, take the hill or die trying.”

The clear difference between intention of both protests shines a light on the double standard between white supremacist groups and civil rights protesters. One group went into the protests with the intention of being peaceful, standing up for human rights and making a positive change. Members of the other group intended to take any action they could to get what they wanted and promoted hate. 

There has also been criticism from leaders, such as President Joe Biden, who spoke on the topic during the Jan. 7 U.S. Department of Justice nominee announcement.

“No one can tell me that if it 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,” Biden said. 

With plenty of evidence of the far-right planning to cause chaos and violence that day, there should have been more action taken. 

According to NPR, Capitol rioters laughed as they stole items out of the building. Extremists had no problem giving their names and personal information to media outlets. They even went so far as to take selfies with police officers.

For them to proudly participate in an event like storming the Capitol, and still be willing to give their names out, makes it clear there is minimal fear of repercussion within the ranks of the far-right. 

Former President Trump’s statements regarding both situations display a double standard as well. During the Minneapolis BLM protests in May he tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He also threatened anyone outside of the White House with “vicious dogs” and weapons.

When it came to the Capitol riot all he had to tweet was, “We love you. You’re very special ... but you have to go home.”

Although neither protest was 100% peaceful, only one had ill intent. Yet, even though Capitol rioters antagonized and created violence, they received significantly fewer consequences than those who only wanted to be seen and gain the rights they deserve. 

The amount of crowd control at the BLM protests left many people with permanent injuries and trauma after the experience. One photographer lost her eyesight while shooting at a protest and a 75-year-old man was assaulted causing a brain injury.

The experience of receiving such strong weaponry during these protests also put citizens at risk for trauma and long-term mental health issues. 

In an article published by online mental health resource Verywell Mind, Jon Elhai spoke on risks of exposure to these forms of brutality.

“If these protests go on for weeks or months, and if an individual has repeated exposure to tear gas, rubber bullets, [and other methods of crowd control], longer-term PTSD could result,” Elhai said.

Unfortunately, it has been made clear that for now there is a double standard based on race for protesters and not everyone’s voice will be tolerated. Certain groups of people can get away with much more than others in the U.S. Hopefully, one day, peaceful protests for human rights can be held without the risk of brutality and assault.