Donald “Release the Hounds” Trump, who generally wants maximum force used against protestors he doesn’t like and that goes double for anyone who could possibly get near him, takes a rather different view of the lynch mob trying to force its way into the well of Congress:
The night of May 29, 2020, was a frightening one for President Donald Trump. The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer had spawned massive protests throughout the country, including on the streets of Washington. Concerned about the unrest, the president’s protective detail moved him into a bunker inside the White House, a precautionary measure that Trump would later claim involved nothing more than a tour. (This was not true.)
Always seeking to project strength, Trump the next morning presented the situation as though he was a conquering general.
“Great job last night at the White House by the [Secret Service],” he wrote on Twitter. “ … I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe.” He praised agents for letting the protesters “scream & rant,” noting that if any “got too frisky or out of line, [agents] would quickly come down on them, hard — didn’t know what hit them.”
“[N]obody came close to breaching the fence” outside the White House, Trump added. “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”
Seven months later, a very different crowd of protesters threatened the seat of the legislative branch of government. Pro-Trump rioters not only breached the fence outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, but also made their way inside the building through smashed windows and forced-open doors. Scores of them used improvised weapons and fists to batter and repel law enforcement officers. At times, the crowd chanted explicitly for violence against lawmakers — Democratic leaders, Vice President Mike Pence. And, at times, parts of the mob got perilously close to those officials themselves.
One such group found its way to a doorway at the end of a hallway connected to the House chamber. That hallway was an escape route for legislators in the room, some of whom spied the rioters through the glass windows that formed part of the imperfect barrier keeping them safe. When those windows were briefly left unguarded, the rioters smashed them, providing an opportunity for one, a woman named Ashli Babbitt, to try to enter the hallway.
A law enforcement officer defending the space fired a shot, striking Babbitt. She later died.
One of the grimly fascinating aspects of the Jan. 6 riot is how it exposed the boundaries of right-wing support for police. Those officers tasked with defending the building were attacked; an effort to recognize their service was later opposed by some of the House’s furthest-right members. The man who shot Babbitt has become a target of fury as Babbitt has increasingly been cast as something of a martyr for the day’s cause. Because that cause was Trumpism, Trump himself has spoken of Babbitt more and more often.
At a rally in Florida over the weekend, he demanded to make public the name of the person who had fired the bullet.
“People know the name. People know where he came from,” he said. “Now if that were on the other side” — meaning, not on Trump’s side — “the person who did the shooting would be strung up and hung.”
Importantly, Trump also said that there was “no reason” for Babbitt’s having been shot. When protesters were outside the White House in May 2020, crossing the fence would have meant being mauled by dogs or otherwise being “really badly hurt, at least.” But a member of a huge, violent mob surging into a secure area of the Capitol that tried to press forward toward evacuating legislators? No reason for law enforcement to use deadly force.
This, at its heart, is Trump’s view of justice. Those on his side are exempt from accountability for their actions. Those on the other side, however, most be dealt with harshly — more harshly than the law allows.
MAGA is outright turning Babbitt into a martyr because it is at essence a movement with a fascist mindset.