Friday, January 8, 2021

Police and Left-Wing vs Right-Wing Demonstrations

Struck by the difference in how the police responded to Black Lives Matter protests vs. right wing protests over the summer, a group called Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project has been trying to put together data:

Between May 1 and November 28, 2020, authorities were more than twice as likely to attempt to break up and disperse a left-wing protest than a right-wing one. And in those situations when law enforcement chose to intervene, they were more likely to use force — 34 percent of the time with right-wing protests compared with 51 percent of the time for the left. Given when this data was collected, it predominantly reflects a difference in how police respond to Black Lives Matter, compared with how they respond to anti-mask demonstrations, pro-Trump extremists, QAnon rallies, and militia groups.

The differences in intervention weren’t because BLM protests were particularly violent. ACLED found that 93 percent of the protests associated with BLM were entirely peaceful. “Even if we were to put those 7 percent of demonstrations aside and look purely at peaceful [BLM protests], we are seeing a more heavy handed response,” Kishi said.
Nobody is surprised about this. I would note, though, that these are statistical, not absolute differences. That supports what I believe, which is that the American police are far from unified in their politics. They tend right-wing but they include diverse people and personalities, including some who are genuinely working for peace and some who hate disorder of any sort and are just as happy to slug a right-wing punk as a left-wing punk. The same goes for the general tone of particular police forces.

You saw this in the mob attack on the Capitol. While some police were taking selfies with rioters, others shot and killed one of them. I think it is certainly true that police leadership grossly underestimated the violent potential of a Trump-inspired mob and would have prepared differently for a BLM rally. But it is not true that the Capitol Police as a group failed to oppose the attack on the building. Some tried, but they were undermined by bad leadership and, it seem, traitorous behavior by some of their number. 

On a related topic: If you have ever worked with the Federal security forces and know how seriously they take their jobs, you already know what is coming: the Secret Service, FBI, and federal prosecutors are going to throw the book at every person they can identify who crossed the barrier around the Capitol, and within a few months some people who were shocked by the riot are going to be shocked by the severity of the response. 


David said...

Some people may be shocked at the law enforcement response. I think an extremely harsh response is exactly what's needed. To borrow from your own apt description, a lot of the perpetrators are basically LARPing. Their behavior during the riot makes this element in their movement absolutely clear. The authorities need to take the play element out and replace it with a harsh reality that forces adherents to choose between acting out their fantasies and a comfortable life. This seems a viable plan to weaken this as a mass movement. The latter goal is very important.

pootrsox said...

I for one will not be remotely "shocked" at the response. Instead, the more draconian it is, the more satisfied I will be. These insurrectionists were attempting to destroy the country called the United States of America. Gods only know what they wanted to replace it with.

Susi said...

Amen to the harsh response.
Here in Mid-Virginia I see many who are pro-Trump, but otherwise reasonable people. We just don’t discuss anything pertaining to Politics. Magical thinking, religious bias, lack of logical thought, believing in mis-information, Limbaugh-loving abounds even in lawyers, doctors, and otherwise ‘educated’ people.
They are kind to the ones inside their ‘bubble’ but harshly judge those outside of it. Racial biases slant their views in ways they, themselves, don’t understand. Many have multiracial grandchildren whom they love unconditionally, but those are within their ‘bubble’.
I’m hoping that this assault on propriety will awaken them, but so far I haven’t seen that. It’s more talk about ‘good people on both sides’ BS.
Facts rarely change emotions. People rarely change beliefs, especially if it means seeing themselves in the wrong.

G. Verloren said...


When confronted with facts that run counter to their preconceived notions in a way that produces cognitive dissonance, many people simply double down.

You show a flat-earther a simple proof showing the world is a globe, and instead of realizing they were wrong, they instead tell themselves that your proof is made up, and that it demonstrates that you are either an ignorant pawn of "The Conspiracy", or a full blown member of it actively lying to their face.

Some people just don't know how to admit that they are wrong. They weren't ever taught how to properly do that. They literally lack the skills necessary for it.

There's an old Scottish proverb: "A wise man wavers, a fool is fixed."

But for many Americans, they think changing your mind when presented with new information is weakness. And they see standing up for their ignorant beliefs to be strength. They can't bring themselves to confess to ever having made a mistake, because they view mistakes as unimaginably shameful. They would rather choose a stupid hill to die pointlessly on than concede ever being incorrect.

John said...

I agree that a serious response to the riot is warranted, but some of these folks could be looking at 40 years in prison. A single count of interfering with a Federal Office gets you 6-12 years. If you touch the officer, that bumps the offense one step up the guidelines and gets you 8-14. For each count. If you strike an officer with a weapon, that's two more steps and the guidelines get you 12-18.

Those sentences are for first offenders without any "aggravating circumstances." If some of these guys have past run-ins with the cops or involvement with far right groups they could slide horizontally across the table and get 30 years for a single count of impeding an officer.

Each count of destroying government property gets you 0-6 years, and I bet for trashing a Senator's office the prosecutors will ask for a number near the top.

David said...

@John--Too bad.

David said...

To be quite clear, I'm also not troubled that Leonard Peltier and David Gilbert are still in prison.

G. Verloren said...


Are you worried about somehow overpunishing people who literally staged a coup?

People whose actions did not merely threaten our entire society's foundation, but have already caused very real and quite profound damage our democracy, regardless of the fact that they achieved nothing of material value? Armed domestic terrorists who beseiged and occupied the Capitol with the direct intent (however fanciful) of overturning the election by force? People who brought handcuffs and zip ties because they intended to take hostages?

Are you seriously afraid to throw the book at these people? Because we routinely send black men to jail for forty years for far, far less. it is not remotely unheard of for people to be handed a de facto life sentence for nonviolent crimes like selling marijuana.

In fact, it's not just de facto life sentences - in 2013, the ACLU reported that there were 3,278 prisoners serving ACTUAL life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug crimes. And we're talking absurdly minor crimes in many cases. Dale Wayne Green was given a life sentence for being the middleman in a marijuana deal (an undercover sting) which only involved $20 worth of product, and for which he only earned a $10 commission.

Life in jail for helping someone else sell $20 bucks worth of pot. And yet you're worried that possible forty year sentences for people who stormed the Capitol with assault rifles and handcuffs, with the express intent of abducting members of Congress and destroying electoral ballets to forcibly install an illegitimate president, is somehow too much?

These people are literal traitors, however incompetent or ineffectual. If we're willing to send a black man to jail for life for the pettiest of drug crimes, then proportionally these morons deserve to be impaled on pikes and displayed on the White House lawn. Forty years in jail is already a considerable mercy and leniency. Life in prison would be far more fitting - it would send the message that an armed assault on the very seat of American democracy is treated at least as seriously as helping someone buy a tiny amount of a recreational drug.

...of course, we wouldn't be having this conversation if the terrorists had been black. The book would have been thrown at them reflexively, and several others pulled from the shelves to be thrown in addition.