Since Saturday, June 20, and for every Saturday thereafter, local residents have peacefully gathered at 10 a.m. for a Black Lives Matter Vigil. There has been no disturbance other than an occasional driver yelling in opposition to or in support for their cause. It is both remarkable and heartening.
This is why I took particular offense when I learned of the recent, egregious public statements of Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) characterizing the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters as patriots and the Black Live Matters protestors as dangerous.
Johnson said he didn’t feel threatened because the protestors were people who “love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, [and] would never do anything to break the law.”
I have a hard time wrapping my head around his statement. The protestors would never do anything to break the law? They broke the law! A lot of them! As of this date, over 350 people have been charged, some may be charged with sedition. Sedition doesn’t suggest love of country. Quite the contrary. Furthermore, does crushing through barricades, breaking in and vandalizing a building that more than any other epitomizes democracy suggest love of country? Does chanting “Hang Mike Pence” suggest love of country? Does using bear-spray on a Capitol police officer before assaulting and killing him suggest respect for law enforcement? None of that does to this American.
As fellow Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said on Meet the Press in denouncing Johnson’s comments, “We don’t need to try and explain away or come up with alternative versions. We all saw what happened.” Indeed.
What happened at the Capitol -- a scene played out on television that alarmed not only people in this country, but people around the world -- didn’t alarm Johnson, who instead asserted that he would have felt more threatened had the protestors been made up of BLM or antifa protestors.
Why? Johnson has said that of the 7,750 protests last summer -- there were actually more than 10,000 — 570 of them turned violent. The 570 number is misleading, as it refers to all violent or destructive demonstrations occurring in the U.S. between May and August 2020, not just the BLM protests. He says his numbers largely came from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit data and collection analysis project. Johnson seems to be suggesting that any violence that occurred at BLM protests was instigated by the protestors. ACLED, however, says Johnson is not accurately representing the group’s data.
According to ACLED, BLM protests were met with police intervention twice as often as right-wing demonstrations. Furthermore, police used force 51% of the time at BLM events and 33% at right-wing events. Therefore, a significant amount of the violence at the demonstrations between May and August 2020 resulted from police intervention. ACLED does not identify instigators; that is an assumption on Johnson’s part, an assumption rooted in prejudice, not fact.
Johnson’s comments are irresponsible and purposefully inflammatory. That seems to be his modus operandi. He continues to question the legitimacy of our recent election, Russian interference in the election, climate change, and the U.S. handling of COVID-19. Johnson’s reckless and unsubstantiated theories not only undermine our institutions, they undermine our democracy. Johnson’s assertions promote fear and fear breeds division.
We deserve better from all our elected officials.