Updated: Apr 15
Derek Chauvin was distracted by an angry mob, resulting in the death of George Floyd. Lieutenant GD Langford arrested Georgia lawmaker Park Cannon because he feared a repeat of the January 6th riot. And then Attorney General William Barr repeatedly referred to Black Lives Matter protestors as rioters during Congressional testimony regarding systemic racism in law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WS) claims he would be “concerned” if those who took part in the insurrection were BLM, instead of loyal Trump supporters. He further pushed the false narrative that the insurrectionists were “fake Trump supporters” and “provocateurs” planted by Antifa to cause violence. He claimed that the protestors weren’t armed because they didn’t possess firearms.
And if that weren’t enough, there is the ultimate Master of Denial, Donald Trump. In a vain attempt to re-write history, Trump is revising the events of January 6th. In his warped version, there was no violent insurrection. Instead, there were peaceful protestors who were “hugging and kissing” police, and were invited in and then left quietly, despite video evidence to the contrary.
Of course he has his backers on what used to be called state-run media, Fox News. Commentator Tucker Carlson is under fire as he attempts to re-write history when it comes to the January 6th insurrection. Like Trump, Carlson claimed the insurrectionists “wandered freely” around the Capitol because it was, after all, “The People’s House”, and it was therefore their right to do so. He completely ignores the violent protests, the cries to “Hang Mike Pence” or do harm to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and instead paints the protestors as peaceful old men.
These are the competing arguments as the definition of “an angry mob” remains subject to which side of the aisle you are on. One side claims that the violence is one-sided, with racial overtones reminiscent of the previous administration. The other, backed by facts, continues to push these facts, which are being twisted, denied and revisited to fit a distorted vision of America.
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The Derek Chauvin Trial
Taking a page from the Trump playbook, defense attorneys in the Derek Chauvin trial are attempting to convince a jury to ignore the video evidence and instead focus their ire at the “angry mob” that was keeping him from doing what he viewed as his legal duty. The claim is that this caused Chauvin to lose track of the amount of time he was pressing down on George Floyd’s neck. In this implausible theory, those screaming at Chauvin to get off Floyd were actually the ones who need to be held responsible for his death, and not the one who is on trial.
This defense quickly unraveled as witness after witness testified about their reactions at Chauvin’s actions. They included a 61 year-old man, who broke down in tears as he recanted how he tried to get Floyd to comply with the officers, an off-duty firefighter who was rebuffed when she offered to give Floyd medical attention, a mixed-martial arts fighter who described the type of hold Chauvin was applying and who called 911 to report Chauvin’s actions, and even a 9 year-old who testified that medics asked Chauvin to get off Floyd’s neck.
While these people, and others, were shouting at Chauvin to get off Floyd as he begged for his life, they were far from the “angry mob” the defense is trying to portray.
William Barr and the Black Lives Matter Protestors
When then Attorney General William Barr testified before Congress, he called the Black Lives Matter protests “an assault” on the government. During his testimony he repeatedly interrupted members of Congress who referred to them as protestors by interjecting “rioters”. He depicted them as an angry mob, hell-bent on destruction and looting.
While there indeed was some damaging of businesses and looting, these incidents were limited, despite the focus on the acts by right wing media who ignored the fact that many of the acts of violence were in fact incited by far-right groups such as the Boogaloo Boys. Instead, like Barr, they ignored the reasons for the protests and denied there was any systemic racism in law enforcement.
Senator Tries to Re-Write History
Prior to the events of January 6th, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, along with Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MN) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), spearheaded the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Even though he withdrew his objections following the insurrection, it did not stop him from later attempting to re-write history by having selective recall of the events while also making racist remarks related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Despite the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, Johnson is attempting to depict the Capitol protestors as largely peaceful and unarmed. He later claimed that he would not have been worried if he had to walk through a crowd of insurrectionists, but would feel threatened if he had to walk among Black Lives Matter protestors.
These remarks have been slammed as racist, but Johnson continues to stand by them as he denies the reality of an attempt to overthrow the government.
Trump and Fox “News” (What Else?)
Picking up on Ron Johnson’s outlandish assertions, and lacking the social media megaphone that he used so effectively, Trump took to his favorite propaganda network and made the baseless claim that there were no protestors. Instead, he tried to gaslight his supporters, using the same “don’t believe your eyes” tactic he employed during his unsuccessful bid for re-election. He claimed what we saw as rioters were actually peaceful protestors who were exercising their Constitutional rights to dispute a “stolen election”.
Ignoring the dead and injured, Tucker Carlson tried to push the false narrative that the insurrectionists came to Washington armed only with “extremely dangerous ideas”. He completely swept away any notions of violence and ignored the poles, flags, bear spray and other weapons the insurrectionists possessed as they forced their way into the Capitol. Instead of violent insurrectionists, Carlson described a “mob of older people from unfashionable zip codes”.
With both sides differing as to what constitutes “an angry mob”, it’s easy to see why America remains so divided. On one side you have those armed with facts, and even live-streamed video, to back up their claims. On the other, you have conspiracy theories and a huge distortion of the issues. Unless those who follow these lies are willing to listen to facts, there will always be another “angry mob”.