On the night of May 28 of this past year, rioters were in the process of demolishing the city of Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd. In the middle of the chaos, a mob forced their way into the Minneapolis 3rd Precinct. Police officers quickly evacuated the building, driving hastily away in vehicles or retreating on foot and shielding themselves from the rocks and fireworks being hurled in their direction. Reportedly, city council members had been begging the police chief to surrender the building to the rioters, for fear that defending it would only further enrage them. The politicians got their wish. The building was abandoned, and then ransacked and torched.
This one incident — one of many similar incidents in Minneapolis and other major cities across the country — singlehandedly puts to rest any claim that police used more violent tactics against BLM rioters than they did against the rioters at Capitol Hill this week. It is very hard to make such a case when police quite literally handed their precinct over to the rioters, and sat back and watched them burn it to the ground.
Now let’s imagine something. What if the cops had decided to stand and fight, defending their building from the rampaging mob? And what if they had used lethal force to do so? And what if, in the ensuing melee, an unarmed black woman had been shot at near point blank range and killed as she tried to climb through a broken window? Surely, there can be no doubt about the public and political reaction to such an event. There is no chance that the BLM and Antifa set, and the media, and the Democrat Party, would ignore the woman’s death, or outright defend the officer on the basis that the black woman didn’t belong there in the first place.
This hypothetical woman — let’s pretend her name was, say, Ashli Babbitt — would be memorialized with building-sized murals, more rioting would be conducted on her behalf, and athletes like LeBron James would put her name on his jersey and exhort us to “say her name.” The outrage over her death would be nuclear in proportion, and her name would be famous in death. A martyr for the cause. Another canonized saint for social justice. That is how it would have gone with the hypothetical Ashli Babbitt.
But what about the real Ashli Babbitt? The real Ashli Babbitt, a white Trump supporter, was killed while participating in the swarm on the Capitol building on Wednesday. According to reports, she was unarmed. Video of the incident shows that she was attempting to climb through a broken window when an officer shot her in the neck and killed her. We have heard quite a lot about the killing of unarmed civilians, and the harsh treatment of rioters, and here we have an example of both. But this Ashli Babbitt has not gotten the sort of treatment and attention that our hypothetical Ashli Babbitt would have received. Nor has she gotten the treatment or attention that non-hypothetical violent armed felons like Jacob Blake have received after getting shot by police.
Ashli Babbitt has been largely ignored by the media and the Left. Most of the scant attention her death has attracted has been in the form of what the Left would normally call “victim blaming.” Perusing Google this morning, I could not find a single headline in any major publication that identified her as an “unarmed woman,” which is conspicuous because usually “unarmed” is the first thing they tell us in these kinds of situations. Most of the headlines are like this one from NBC News: “Woman killed in Capitol was Trump supporter who embraced conspiracy theories.”
The article goes on to detail the sins the dead woman committed on social media. For example:
Using the handle CommonAshSense, Babbitt’s Twitter account was almost singularly focused on radical conservative topics and conspiracy theories. Among other fringe beliefs, she tweeted about pizzagate, a viral disinformation campaign that falsely alleged a child abuse ring was being operated by Democrats from a Washington pizza restaurant.
Babbitt was a loyal Fox News watcher, according to thousands of tweets to Fox News hosts, but she also engaged on social media with the conspiracy news internet news site InfoWars. In 2020, Babbitt began to tweet with QAnon accounts and use QAnon hashtags. QAnon conspiracy theorists subscribe to a false belief that high-profile Democrats and Hollywood celebrities are ritually sacrificing children and that Trump is fighting to stop it. QAnon followers have allegedly committed real-world violent crimes, including murder, and the F.B.I. labeled it a potential domestic terror threat in 2019.
Many more details are provided about Babbitt’s tweeting habits. As for information on the shooting itself, almost nothing is provided at all. We are not even told that she was unarmed at the time.
Could the shooting still be justified? Babbitt was where she shouldn’t have been, doing something she should not have been doing. That much is clear. But if that alone justifies deadly force, then police would have license to kill many people at many of the riots that have broken out around the country.
It is hard to see how the officer who pulled the trigger could have reasonably viewed Babbitt as a lethal threat to himself or anyone else. She’s a small unarmed woman climbing through a window. Could they not have pushed her back? Or taken her to the ground and cuffed her? Video shows that there was a line of heavily armed law enforcement officers coming up the steps directly behind her. Could none of them have simply grabbed her and pulled her away?
Or are the reports wrong? Did Ashli Babbitt actually have a weapon? Or did the officer think she had one? I doubt it, based on the video footage, but I don’t know because the media isn’t bothering to ask. Did he fire because she was wearing a backpack and he thought there might be explosives? That seems dubious since lots of people were wearing backpacks and they didn’t kill anyone else — and lots of people at other riots wear bags and that is never a justification to shoot any of them — but again it’s hard to know because the media isn’t bothering to look for answers. Nobody is demanding accountability. Do we even know the name of the officer who pulled the trigger? Has he been put on administrative leave while the investigation is underway? There appears to be little interest in these questions.
The people who have spent years panicking over police shootings, especially police shootings of unarmed people, are happy to simply let this one slide. This is not what would happen if Ashli Babbitt had a different political affiliation or skin color. And we all know it.
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