Is Don Lemon right summer riots not comparable to Capitol Hill?


Fact Box

  • After the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, protests erupted across the US in more than 100 cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Memphis, Phoenix, and others. 
  • About 25 people died from the summer riots, 11 during demonstrations and 14 from related incidents. Property damage from looting and rioting amounted to $1 to $2 billion across the states. 
  • After the 2020 election, President Trump hesitated to accept the results of Joe Biden’s win because of alleged fraud. He refused to concede to Biden, claiming he “will never give up” until he promised a “smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power” on January 7, 2021.
  • Wednesday, January 6, Trump supporters rallied on the US Capitol “interrupting challenges to Biden Electoral College victory.” After chaos ensued, there were four fatalities, 52 arrests, and 14 police officers injured. Damage to the Capitol included broken windows, vandalism, trashed offices, and stolen goods.
  • Don Lemon is a Black television anchor, writer, and producer known for Black-ish, Zoolander, and Into the Storm. 
  • On Tuesday, January 12, Lemon stated that the riot at Capitol Hill was not comparable to the summer’s Black Lives Matter and police brutality riots because of the difference in “facts.” He mentioned the difference being social justice and lies, saying, “What happened at the Capitol was built on a lie, perpetrated by the president and the people who support him.”

Bill (Yes)

Don Lemon is wrong in trying to draw a false contrast between last week's breach of the Capitol by protesters and last year's Antifa/BLM-led anti-police riots across the country. Lemon attempted to make the distinction based on his assertion that the anti-police riots were based on 'facts,' that is, they were undertaken to address 'racial justice' concerns. He went on to impugn the rationale for the Capitol protests by claiming there was no basis to dispute the results of the 2020 election. 

A notable difference between last week's and last year's events that Lemon neglected to mention is the way the media covered the incidents and the way Democrat politicians reacted to them. Last summer's riots were treated with indifference or encouragement by the media and local Democrat political leaders who capitulated to the mob. The toll from last summer's nihilistic eruptions was nearly $2B damage in property and resulted in 24 deaths.

A consistent and unbiased view of the two separate protests is to condemn the violence and destruction that occurred all around. However, that point of view doesn't fit with the narrative that Lemon and CNN are intent on advancing—that America is plagued by systemic racism. This allows Lemon and his colleagues to give blanket immunity to any transgression that occurs in the name of racial justice while simultaneously condemning protests that are rooted in opposing political opinions. Cable viewers appear to recognize bias when they see it, as Fox News enjoys a two-to-one advantage in viewership versus CNN. In refusing to offer unbiased analysis of news events, Lemon sabotages his own credibility as a journalist.

Andrew (Yes)

Don Lemon is right to paint the Capitol Hill Riot as fundamentally different from the violence that occurred at racial justice rallies during the summer of 2020 because the causes were starkly different. The racial justice rallies were based on fact: Black Americans and other minority groups do experience higher rates of police violence in America. Black Americans are two and a half more times more likely to be killed by police than whites, and an FBI study found “huge racial disparities in how police use force.” It is clear that the BLM movement’s grievances are legitimate. On the contrary, the violence at the Capitol was based on the falsehoods that the election was stolen or unfair, even though there has been no credible evidence.

The racial justice violence is also different from the Capitol Hill riot because the summer’s events lacked a clear and singular leader telling the participants to commit violence. The violence of the Capitol Hill riot was driven by President Trump telling his supporters that “…if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” moments before they marched toward Capitol Hill. Of course, there were leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement, but none of them had the visibility or the sheer force of singularity that President Trump had. This matters because it demonstrates that participants acted organically during the racial justice rallies, reflecting the genuine frustration and rage of their communities. Compared to the Capitol Hill riot, we see how a single individual using misinformation and conspiracy theories whipped his supporters into a frenzy to do his bidding.

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