top of page

Police Protests Versus Political Riots

The January 6 riot and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 have often been a subject of comparison since they were televised and streamed online. At times these comparisons have been used to downplay the behavior of the opposing group, while others use the comparison to point out a sense of injustice. It has been the argument by groups on both sides that unfair punishment has been administered to their cause of preference. Like so many other issues related to race or politics, these discussions must focus on the facts in order to be productive and lessen the unnecessary divisiveness. If these conversations are not based on facts, then they offer nothing beneficial to society than contribute more negativity to the ongoing culture war in America.

Black Lives Matter protests began around 2012 in reaction to police-involved deaths and brutality of Black residents revealed a long history of problems between police and Black communities. This track record of abuse, violence and death by police is older than America itself, with decades of research and historical records to prove their inhumane treatment and disproportionate targeting of Black communities. The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 were a continuation of this sentiment and behavior by police, when George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd's death occurred as the result of an officer kneeling on his neck while handcuffed for more than seven minutes. Similar to previous years, there were protests nationwide and some even evolved into riots. Although Black Live Matter protests are usually associated with the stigma of violence an article by Time suggests otherwise. According to the article written by Sanya Monsoor, out of more than 7,750 protests in 2020 for Floyd, 93 percent of those demonstrations were non-violent.

In the protests where violence or property damage took place, it was often the work of right-wing extremists, white supremacists, and undercover police officers. This was done to escalate tensions and to help the stigma of violence to remain with Black Lives Matter protests to dissuade potential supporters. For instance, an article by ABC News wrote about a 32-year-old white supremacist who was caught on camera in Minneapolis busting windows, vandalizing stores and encouraging protestors to participate in theft. According to an article by the Brennan Center for Justice, it was reported instances of "undercover police officers sometimes initiate or enable violence between police and protestors, further escalating the already-violent policing of dissent." This statement was explained by stating, "sometimes even going as far as to gin up violence as justification for scrutiny-rather than keeping protestors safe." In some cases, nationwide, it was not uncommon for non-Black protestors to be identified as the instigators of violence at these protests.

When examining the riot at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, documentation shows this event was planned in reaction to Donald Trump's presidential campaign loss for re-election. On the morning of Janaury 6, Trump tweeted about the election results being illegitimate and by noon he appeared at the "Save America Rally," where he spoke to a large crowd of frustrated and angry supporters. Trump and other speakers at the rally regularly referred to the election as "stolen," further stoking the upset crowd. Before directing the crowd to walk down to the Capitol Building, Trump told them, "Fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore." What transpired later was America's first attempted coup d'etat by a former president.

Despite being aided by thousands of rioters including, right-wing extremists, normal citizens and off-duty police officers, Trump's attempt to overthrow the government and steal an election by kidnapping and harming members of Congress failed. In the process many police officers were placed in life-threatening circumstances. These circumstances were so traumatic that at least four of those police officers committed suicide in the days following the infamous January 6 riot, often referred to as an insurrection.

On one hand, the Black Lives Matter protests were primarily peaceful and were organized as a stance against race-based murder by police officers. On the other hand, the January 6 riot was a violent attempt to overthrow the government and bring a halt to democracy, because of an election loss. In the case of the protestors, we see innocent civilians exercising a Constitutional right to assemble, to speak and to protest. For those at the Capitol Building, we see citizens committing treason because their candidate lost in a democratically governed election.

Doing a side-by-side comparison of these two major events in American history we can understand how fundamentally different they are and use the facts related to them to develop an appropriate perspective toward them. By doing so, some of the social, political, and racial intolerances can be diffused while also purging the mind of a false reality. These things are incredibly important for a nation established as a republic and governed by democracy to rely on truth and facts, not lies and conspiracy theories.

-Cliff A. May



Related Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page