Column: Yes, they’re actually blaming Black people for the violent insurrection by the pro-Trump mob
If you’re a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” movies, you know one of the best battle scenes in the final part of the trilogy. Our protagonist, Aragorn, the rightful king of Gondor, recruits the Army of the Dead and with their help storms the battlefield and goes on to defeat the evil forces of Sauron. Later, Aragorn takes his place as ruler and is loved by all. There’s a catered party with a band and I think a photo booth near the restrooms.
The Twitter account for the Arizona Republican Party posted a shot from that scene. It featured our hero prominently in the foreground with Sauron’s bad guys approaching in the distance — but with a twist. They added the words “For Donald.” That was Jan 2. On Dec. 28, there’s a portrait of Donald Trump holding an American flag in one hand and drawing a gun out of his holster with the other.
And on Jan. 11, the account featured a video clip of Trump speaking at the Jan. 6 rally, with the words — and I kid you not— THE PRESIDENT OF PEACE. Another tweet that day claims “tens of thousands marched peacefully to the Capitol to make their voices heard” but “several dozen, including members of Antifa, made the reprehensible decision to riot, criminally trespass, and commit violence.” It concludes with, “Punish the perps, stop gaslighting the innocents.”
It reminded me of the time O.J. Simpson said he was going to go out and find the real killers.
What the nation saw on Wednesday in the House impeachment debate was the Arizona Republican Party’s Twitter feed brought to life. An absolutely absurd amalgamation of lies, misdirection and false equivalencies all designed to minimize the role Trump and his followers played in the attack on the Capitol that left five people dead, including a police officer.
The Capitol is supposed to be one of the most secure buildings in the most militarized country in the world, and it fell to a white supremacist mob that had been groomed for such an occasion for years.
Not weeks or months.
And to add insult to injury, a number of white Republican members of the House — in denouncing the violence but declining to vote for impeachment — tried to blame Black people for what occurred as if challenging the votes from predominantly Black districts wasn’t enough.
“If we prosecuted BLM [Black Lives Matter] and antifa rioters across the country with the same determination these last six months, this incident may not have happened at all,” said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove).
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) went as far as to quote the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before she went on to denounce “violence on both sides of the aisle” and lump together damage caused by rioters during the protests for criminal justice reform last summer with the violent insurrection.
The most offensive statements were made by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the Confederate-statue defender who brought Charles Johnson, a white nationalist/Holocaust denier, to the 2018 State of the Union address. He said he opposed political violence from all sides, “but make no mistake, the left in America has incited far more political violence than the right. For months, our cities burned, police stations burned, our businesses shattered.”
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) insinuated the riots and looting that happened in 2020 were worse than the insurrection, adding that “if there’s any silver lining in this dark cloud, it’s that our friends across the aisle have come to realize that riots are bad.”
A parade of presumably intelligent elected officials tried to minimize a coordinated terrorist attack — encouraged by the president and other elected officials — with the intent to stop the most essential aspect of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power. To distract from this assault, Fallon and others tried to equate a looted Foot Locker with an attack that forced members of Congress to run for their lives, pointing fingers at protesters who were moved to take to the streets by police brutality and by the video of a police officer, with his hands in his pockets, casually killing George Floyd in broad daylight.
Were the instances of rioting and looting last summer wrong? Absolutely. And families of victims, left-leaning public figures and elected officials have denounced those actions loudly, contrary to the lies heard on the House floor.
President-elect Joe Biden condemned the violence. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris condemned it. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms poured out her heart at a news conference, saying, “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.” She pointed out the mom-and-pop shops hurt by the violence, adding, “If you care about this city then go home.”
That was in May.
The “both sides” garbage heard Wednesday is just that — garbage. It’s offensive and dangerous and a reminder that some people don’t care about right or wrong, even at a moment of national crisis. They just want to win. The disappointing thing about all of this is that, despite the attack on our democratic system, these Republican politicians still don’t understand that when it comes to games like the one they played Wednesday, no one wins.
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