Why are BLM protests not treated the same as Capitol riots? US soldiers reportedly asking uneasy question
The insurrection at the Capitol Hill on January 6, when former president Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the seat of the Congress to protest the victory of Joe Biden as the president in last November’s election, has left a major impact on America’s politics. The ugly episode even saw Trump getting banned from social media platforms and impeached by the House for the second time in just over a year, something that has never happened before in the history of the presidency.
And given the seriousness with which the January 6 riots are being seen (massive troops were deployed at the Capitol), soldiers have started openly questioning why the violent BLM and Antifa riots of 2020 were not treated like the Capitol riot that took five lives.
Capitol Hill violence: At least 25 domestic terrorism probes launched, were military members involved in riots?
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Last Thursday, March 18, Chief Master Sergeant Ramón “CZ” Colón-López conceded in a briefing at the Pentagon that some of the troops have indeed asked the question: “How come you’re not looking at the situation that was going on in Seattle prior to that? [Jan. 6 riot]”
“This is coming from every echelon that we’re talking to,” he added.
Military.com reported Colón-López, a senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, saying that he is “concerned about the way that some people are looking at the current environment”.
The US armed forces have in recent months expressed their worry over the involvement of some of their former and active members in the January 6 riots. Days after the riots that put the lives of the lawmakers under threat, the country’s top military leadership condemned the “sedition and insurrection”. In a memo written to the troops, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley asked them to abide by lawful orders and reminded them of their commitment to the highest law of the land -- the Constitution.
During his talks with the media, Colón-López also said the confusion expressed by some younger troops shows why training sessions on extremism are required. In early February, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a stand-down and gave military units two months to discuss extremism in the troops’ ranks.
Colón-López said the military is an apolitical organization and the question whether an extremist group is far right or far left is irrelevant. “If it’s an organization that is actually imposing harm, threat, destruction, criminal activity and so on, then we don’t condone that behavior," the military leader said. “We’re focusing on letting people know exactly what the oath tells us to do when it comes to obeying lawful orders, remaining apolitical and basically being good stewards of society.”
Understanding difference between Capitol riots & BLM protests
But the training sessions gave the leaders some new reasons to feel worried. According to Colón-López, those conducting the sessions wanted to ensure that the military members understood the difference between Seattle and the January 6 riots. The city in Washington state has been witnessing continuous riots since May 2020, when George Floyd was killed under police custody and more than 110 police officers have left the city’s police departments over the months owing to low morale and budget cut, leaving the scenario even more perilous.
“But some of our younger members are confused about this, so that’s what we need to go ahead and talk to them about and educate them on, to make sure that they know exactly what they can and cannot do,” Colón-López said. He noted that while the military was called in to respond to the Capitol Hill riots, it was not to back the law enforcement during the protests in Seattle. He then made a distinction between those who lawfully exercised their First Amendment rights during last year’s protests supporting the BLM movement and those who joined protests to carry out loot and destruction and commit other crimes.
The military leader then said that sometimes, the younger troops see messages on TV that make the line of distinction blurred and it was thus important to educate them about the difference.
But sometimes, he said, younger troops see messages on TV that blur the lines between the two, and "we needed to educate them" on the difference. Colón-López also said that owing to the “information overload” today’s troops face -- thanks to traditional media, memos from service leaders and social media -- they can feel confused and uncertain about the source to get reliable information.
“What I am committed to is to make sure that our people understand right from wrong,” he said, adding: “That our people ... are well-educated to be able to carry on, in an honorable fashion. And if they hear somebody saying the wrong things, that they’re quick to go ahead and correct them ... without being confrontational.”
However, there were also voices that slammed some of the military troops’ viewpoint that the Capitol riots and the BLM protests are similar. Youtuber Sean Fitzerald said in a tweet citing the Military.com report on Colón-López press conference: “Similar that's ridiculous. The Capitol riot was 1 day. BLM had 600+ in just 90 days & they have the support of the mainstream media. Way bigger threat”
Similar that's ridiculous. The Capitol riot was 1 day. BLM had 600+ in just 90 days & they have the support of the mainstream media. Way bigger threat https://t.co/eEOubfM5Qf— Sean Fitzgerald (@IamSean90) March 20, 2021
Comparison between the Capitol attacks and the BLM protests have been found to be surfacing often in America’s public life with both conservatives and BLM activists taking on each other over the narrative that they are similar. But with questions now being asked on them by the armed forces, the American leadership has a serious task cut out.