A tale of two insurrections: Comparing the data from the Jan. 6 riot to the George Floyd protests

OPINION: When theGrio compared the data from the Jan. 6 insurrection to the 2020 George Floyd protests, we discovered some striking similarities and some not-so-shocking disparities.

(L-R) A noose is seen on makeshift gallows as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather on the West side of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021 (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images); People hang a portrait of George Floyd and a Black Lives Matter flag outside the Minnesota State Capitol building as activists gather on March 19, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio

Insurrection: n. — An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.


Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election.

A lie is difficult to disprove, but election ballots, individual voters, exit polls, multiple recounts, countless investigations, the Electoral College, the federal legislature and an 8,000-year-old system called “mathematics” all agree that Trump lost fair and square. When state courts, federal judges and the Supreme Court looked at more than 60 lawsuits in eight states, they found zero instances of widespread voter fraud. To believe that Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election is to believe a lie.

Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

Anyone who protested Floyd’s murder was protesting a fact. While its difficult to prove murder, video evidence, eyewitness testimony and convictions in two separate courts of law, eventually found Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and deprivation of rights under the color of law. Juries do not decide the cases and judges don’t pronounce someone guilty. Verdicts are legal “findings of fact.”  

Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. That is an objective fact.

Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The George Floyd demonstrations were based on an incident that was eventually proven in a court of law, while the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021 was based on a lie. However, the collection of protests that defined the summer of 2020 has one thing in common with the mob violence that overtook the U.S. Capitol. In both cases, the participants revolted against civil authority and established governments. Whether demonstrators were objecting to the unending epidemic of police brutality sanctioned by law enforcement agencies or preventing Congress from carrying out the Constitution’s prescribed method of certifying an election, both events are technically worthy of the title of insurrections. 

And that is where the similarities end.

On the two-year anniversary of the Capitol riot, theGrio decided to compare the aftermath of these events using data, research and media reports. When we examined the information from law enforcement agencies, research projects and news organizations, we discovered shocking similarities and glaring differences in the characterization repercussions and consequences of these two history-making insurrections.

Here’s what we found.

Black Lives Matter vs. MAGA White Liars 

The country’s most reputable outlets, from the New York Times to “America’s most trusted source for news,” repeatedly referred to demonstrations against police brutality protests as  “Black Lives Matter protests.” Not only does this narrative insinuate that George Floyd protesters were disproportionately Black, but it also implies that the participants were representing a particular ideology, group or organization, none of which is true. Even more notable is the fact that news reports rarely mention the whiteness of the Jan. 6 protesters.

It is impossible to know the race of everyone who participated in these two political expressions. We can, however, examine the demographics of those who were arrested or charged with a crime. According to the most recent analysis by the Chicago Project on Security & Threats, 716 people have been charged with storming the Capitol, 93 percent of whom were white.

Conversely, when the Washington Post collected the racial data from “news releases, arrest reports and aggregate data provided by police” of the 17,000 police abuse protesters arrested in the 50 largest cities, about 50.3 percent of the arrestees whose racial data was available were Black, compared to 49.4 of white protesters. When compared to the racial makeup of the cities and compounded with the revelation that Black protesters were more likely to be arrested, charged and sentenced, it turns out that both insurrections were disproportionately white.

But what about the Black protesters’ violence, rioting and looting?

Protests Against Police Brutality Over Death Of George Floyd Continue In NYC
Protesters march in downtown Brooklyn over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer on June 05, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Again, out of 17,000 people arrested during one of the biggest demonstrations in American history, the Washington Post found that the George Floyd protests were overwhelmingly peaceful. Less than 4 percent of the 7,305 protests involved property damage or vandalism and only less than 2 percent even resulted in an injury. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) examined data from 7,750 demonstrations in 2,440 U.S. locations and found: “In more than 93% of all demonstrations connected to the movement, demonstrators have not engaged in violence or destructive activity.” 

Need more proof? 

Well, how about the Department of Homeland Security report that connected much of the violence to “white supremacist extremists” and “anarchist extremists?” To be fair, the DHS chief who said that was from the Trump administration, and you know how they lie. Maybe you should talk to Minnesota law enforcement officials who explained that looting, violence and arson in the city where George Floyd was killed were committed by white supremacist groups like the Boogaloo boys. An Associated Press analysis found that most of the racial justice protesters were not connected to radical groups and even the ones who were arrested were ultimately charged with misdemeanors. 

Comparing both the one-day invasion to the summerlong protests, more cops died on Jan. 6 (1 police officer on Jan. 6 vs. 0 during police brutality insurrection), and less than 1 percent of the George Floyd protests even resulted in a police officer being injured. And here’s an interesting fact about those violent Black protesters:

The Capitol insurrectionists were bigger thugs.

According to the CPOST, 30% of the Capitol breachers had a criminal record, compared to 23.4 percent of all Black people. Also, the Jan. 6 rioters were more likely than George Floyd protesters to be connected to a militia or a white supremacist group. Wait … If cops shoot Black people because Black people are more likely to be criminals, why is it that the Black protesters were more likely to be brutalized during their protests?

Make it make sense. 

To be fair, maybe the violent, radical negro BLM protesters were less violent because there were no Black Lives Matter protests.

The Response

We also found stark contrasts between the law enforcement, media and criminal justice system’s responses to the dueling insurrections.

When George Floyd was murdered, police, military units and even regular-degular white people like Kyle Rittenhouse were called upon to quell the expected unrest. State, local and federal law enforcement agencies placed undercover operatives in protest groups in New York, South Carolina and North Dakota protest groups. Even the DEA got involved

Police brutality skyrocketed. In Huntsville, Ala., cops fired bean bags at peaceful demonstrators. Atlanta officers were slapped with a federal police brutality lawsuit. Police everywhere used a new hoarding technique called “kettling.” And when the Associated Press reviewed records, they found that most people who were detained eventually had their charges dropped, indicating that the protesters were unfairly arrested. But that report also found that those who were charged and convicted by a federal court were sentenced to an average of 27 months.

How does more than two years in prison compare with the Jan. 6 protesters who were more violent and more likely to have a criminal history? Well, the Jan. 6 mobsters were sentenced to an average of 48 days in jail. Not only did they receive lighter sentences than the George Floyd protesters, but those terms were about 40 percent lower than federal sentencing guidelines recommend, Washington Post reports. 

The data is clear.

Apparently, objecting to police shooting Black people in the face is a more egregious crime than overthrowing the government of the United States.

The Results

Now that both events are behind us, what changes have occurred?

  • Legal changes: The year after the Jan. 6 insurrection, 19 states passed laws making it harder to vote. Meanwhile, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act disappeared, and the president is trying to pass legislation to increase the number of police
  • Support for Black Lives vs. the Big Lie: Since the murder of George Floyd, white support for the Black Lives Matter movement plummeted to levels below the level of support pre-George Floyd protests. While the percentage of people who believe Donald Trump won the 2020 election has declined, most Republicans (60 percent) still believe the Big Lie. 
  • Law vs. Order: A Politico poll found that 47 percent of Americans believe that the country has focused too much on the Jan. 6 attack. However, according to a recent Gallup poll, only 44 percent of white Americans believe that major changes are needed to make policing better.

Two insurrections; very different outcomes.  It’s possible that Black people did not take to the streets in hopes of changing the minds of the average American or influencing the perceptions of the value of Black lives. Perhaps the Summer of 2020 was just an opportunity to affirm our value to ourselves. And maybe that white mob had no real hope of overturning a free and fair election. But imagine if America worked as hard at protecting Black lives as it does to promote white lies.

I tried.

I can’t.

However, during our comparison, theGrio tumbled across a little-known quote in a document that might explain the George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and anti-cop protests that temporarily shook the world before fading from the American consciousness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Some document we found

Or, maybe that is the biggest lie of all.

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2023.

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