Samuel Coram/Getty | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times/AP

If you asked different people to describe the worst riot in the U.S. over the past two years, their answers may differ greatly.

Many people might give an unequivocal response describing the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C., when a pro-Trump mob clashed with police over the 2020 election results. And with equal confidence, many others might detail the summer 2020 riots following George Floyd’s murder by police officers, which caused over $1 billion worth of damage in cities across the country.

This divide was evidenced by a recent discussion between two of our team members. They were firmly on opposite sides of the issue, but were also able to agree on a few key points as the discussion progressed.

Below is that discussion taken from our team Slack. It has been edited lightly for brevity.

Julie Mastrine (AllSides Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings, Lean Right bias):

This seems a decent breakdown of why the right thinks it's unfair to have a Jan 6 hearing and not a Summer 2020 Riots hearing.

(I’m continually impressed by Newsweek airing opinions from all sides)


Scott McDonald  (AllSides co-founder, Center bias):

Attacking Bank of America isn't attacking democracy. False equivalency x 100000000000.


Julie

The left set a precedent all summer that rioting was the way to be heard and air your grievances.


Scott

When those morons attacked the capital - they attacked me personally.  When they attacked Bank of America and other private businesses - I didn't care a lick.


Julie

So then the right does it and gets punished way more than the left did. I mean, Dems were bailing out rioters, not prosecuting them.


Scott

Yes.

 

Julie

Really? Even small businesses?

 


Scott 

Plain and simple. Not 1 lick. They have insurance, that what it's for.


Julie

There are blocks in Kenosha of small businesses that will never come back

 

Scott   

Too bad, so sad.

 

Julie

Seems cold hearted, idk. Both sides are wrong to riot.

 


Scott   

It’s not a threat to democracy.

 

Julie

I think it is, because if you riot to get your way/air grievances, it's mob rule. Democracy is to mitigate rule by aggression/force/intimidation.


Scott   

Conflating the two is dishonest, and we shouldn't do it.


Julie

What about police fleeing their precincts? Doesn't that undermine democracy?


Scott   

The method of execution is key. January 6 is treason. The summer riots are disorderly conduct. Not proportional enough to compare.


Julie

The summer rioters were attacking buildings of public property/democracy - federal courthouses, police precincts…


Scott   

You're reaching. Those things are not the cradle of democracy. Not an apt comparison. But I believe you that the expressions of anger come from similar feeling places.


Julie

The scope was severe. "The summer 2020 riots resulted in some 15 times more injured police officers, 30 times as many arrests, and estimated damages in dollar terms up to 1,300 times more costly than those of the Capitol riot." Is the left's take is that the Capitol is more symbolically meaningful than the small businesses, federal courthouses, police precincts, etc?

Like, the dollar amounts, number of demonstrations over many days, number of arrests, etc don't matter as much because the Capitol holds more significance than all of those things combined? It seems that intimidating local communities hurts democracy just as much as intimidating lawmakers.

 

Scott   

Here's what I see happened:

The extreme left had riots and disrupted businesses - the extreme right wanted a thumping police response to this rioting.  When it didn't come - this set the table for the Right to boil over on Jan 6.... - so the events are linked...  but not in proportion or severity.  And unfortunately for the Right they happened to "riot" with equal passion in a way that is treasonous due to the location of their attack.  There is nothing they can do to undo that fact - so they are trying like HELL to equate the 2. Don't let them do it! And by the way - the extreme left did these things out of perceived - and I think real - righteousness ... meaning cops killing black people at such a pace fueled their rage, vs. the etiology of the Rights rage was that they can't kill with impunity anymore, or something. So in origin, scope, proportion... not the same.


Julie

Most of that seems correct to me. Where I differ from you is that I see the summer 2020 riots as having greater severity, impact, and threat to democracy. I could even go so far as to say that this is objectively measurable, since you can count up injuries, property damage, days of unrest, buildings lit on fire, etc. It was sustained, prolonged, and ongoing for months, and targeted local communities/everyday citizens/local police. To me that makes them more severe (Portland riots, for instance, went on for over 100 days; 2,000 US police officers were injured from May - July 2020; one police agency reported 300 police cars damaged including 19 that were fully engulfed in flames, etc etc...)

I'd probably characterize the right's rage differently, I think it was a lot of things, in part fueled by pent up anger at what they'd seen go on all summer in US cities. I actually think both sides were fueled by misleading narratives (on the left, misinformation about racialized police killings, on the right, misinformation about the election).


Scott   

True that^


Julie

But I think at the baseline, the right was looking at summer 2020 and going "well, I guess now we're a society that doesn't settle disputes via debate and the court system and the law, we riot when we're mad and aggrieved. Now we're mad, too, so we'll riot too"


Scott   

I believe that. But poor choice of location.


Julie

It was colossally stupid, that's for sure.


Scott   

To further go down the 'location' path... if you deal drugs in a school zone the punishment triples; if you speed in a construction zone the fines double... location (and intent) matter in our jurisprudence system.

 

Julie

That's fair! Not arguing location doesn't matter. But the outsized focus on Jan 6 to me seems disproportionate to what was going on all Summer 2020. Both deserve equal, sustained attention and investigations. That's hard to quantify but, the media and political class definitely focuses on Jan 6 more than on Summer 2020.


Scott   

Intent 1: stop the superfluous killing of people

Intent 2: stop the peaceful transfer of power (overthrow democracy) - so they could ostensibly "do good" and "save their country"

And in their minds I don't doubt that's what they thought they were doing.


Julie

I'm not convinced they had any sort of plan or organization to seize power


Scott   

They didn't until instructed by their master. Which is why Trump is unfit, in my opinion. Pulling the strings... that's the main takeaway from the Jan 6 stuff. How intimately involved the president and his top men were, KNOWING it was illegal, and praying for pardons.


Julie

I remember watching on TV in summer 2020 while protesters tried to break down the White House barricades. They were literally in a tug of war with police…I remember being like, dang, I think they would kill Trump if they got their hands on him.


Scott   

Totally. One is treason, the other a riot. Both bad. In our law books 1 is punishable by death, the other 30 days in jail. Location matters, intent matters. I hear you though, Julie — I just disagree.


Julie

Yeah I hear you as well!
 

*end*

AllSides encourages open dialogue between our team members. One of our greatest strength is the ideological diversity of our team, and team members' willingness to speak their minds.


Julie Mastrine is the director of marketing and Media Bias Ratings at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.

Scott McDonald is the co-founder and chief technology officer of AllSides. He has a Center bias.

This conversation was lightly edited for brevity by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias).