Ashli Babbitt and George Floyd, compare and contrast

The Washington Post doesn’t like the fact that Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a police officer inside the Capitol on January 6 of this year, is being viewed by some as a martyr. The Post’s story, by anti-Trumper Josh Dawsey and Paul Schwartzman, drips with contempt for the notion that Babbitt could be a martyr. I don’t recall the Post ever questioning the view that George Floyd could be seen that way.

I don’t consider Floyd or Babbitt martyrs, but Babbitt is a stronger candidate for that status.

Floyd was a career criminal. He encountered the police on the day of his death because he was trying to pass a counterfeit bill. He encountered police violence because he ferociously resisted arrest.

Babbitt had no history of criminal behavior, as far as I know. She encountered the police not because she was trying enrich herself unjustly, like Floyd did, but because she was engaging in political protest. The protest took an unlawful and highly distasteful form, which precludes martyr status as far as I’m concerned. But Babbitt was acting selflessly, which makes her more sympathetic than Floyd in my eyes.

Unlike Floyd, Babbitt did not fight the police. As far as I can tell, she committed no violent act.

Yet, Dawsey and Schwartzman seem offended by the fact that Babbitt’s death has led to protests. They blame it on Donald Trump and others who, they say, are trying to “rewrite the narrative of one of the darkest days in the nation’s history.” They don’t accept the idea that people might genuinely be upset that a police officer would shoot an unarmed woman and that neither the name of the officer nor the facts supposedly justifying the killing has ever been made public.

Here again, we see differences between Floyd’s case and Babbitt’s. The name of the officer charged with killing Floyd was not withheld. It became a household name.

And the protests in Floyd’s name that raged for months included killings, arson, assaults, and widespread looting. The protests of Babbitt’s killing have been entirely peaceful, as far as I know.

So again, the distinctions cut in favor of Babbitt and those protesting in her memory, rather than Floyd and the BLM mobs.

The Post’s article includes this passage:

When [Babbitt’s mother] called the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), [she] said an aide told her that “‘although this incident is unfortunate, your daughter should not have stormed the Capitol.’”

I agree. Babbitt shouldn’t have.

But George Floyd shouldn’t have tried to pass a counterfeit bill and shouldn’t have attacked the police officers who were trying to arrest him. These facts have never been thought to foreclose further inquiry.

They are not said to render protests of Floyd’s death problematic (nor do I view the ones that were entirely peaceful that way). And they have never been considered a reason not to disclose the name of the officer whose actions were deemed to have caused Floyd’s death.

If anyone is trying to protect a narrative here, it’s the Post. That narrative is the claim that January 6 is, in the editorializing words of Dawsey and Schwartzman, “one of the darkest days in the nation’s history.”

I can think of many darker ones. But January 6 can be plenty dark and the shooting of an unarmed woman and unwillingness of officials to answer reasonable questions about it can still be worthy of protest.

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