Enemies of democracy fear protestors so they find ways to malign them. In the United States, Republicans and their supporters in conservative media are selling the big lie, flouting science-based measures to combat Covid and resisting climate action. They have also tried to equate peaceful protestors with the 1/6 insurrectionists. This type of false equivalency has become the mainstay of Republican politicians and conservative media. Although they may demonize protestors, America’s storied history reveals that protest has been a catalyst for groundbreaking progress, Some of America’s greatest achievements were born out of protest. The women’s rights movement led to the 19th amendment that guarantees a women’s right to vote and the civil rights movement led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. As Rosa Parks demonstrated, protest does not always mean taking to the streets in droves, sometimes one solitary soul can succeed in making waves that are felt around the world. Parks had the courage to take a stand and her actions became a beacon of light for millions of people across generations.
Standing up against injustice is what people of goodwill do. That is why people took to the streets to protest the former president and call for climate action. That is why a diverse array of people have coalesced in the climate movement. Protests helped to kill the Frontier tar sands mine, the Energy East Pipeline, and the Keystone XL. The Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd shone the spotlight on racism and police violence and they spawned a raft of changes. Last year the power of protest culminated in the removal of a president whose litany of now-infamous malfeasance included calling peaceful protestors terrorists.
Soon after the former president lost the election it became apparent he was trying to stage a coup and on January 6th, 2021 he launched his insurrection, which killed five people and injured 140 Capitol Police officers. 1/6 is a day that will live in infamy, and the threat is far from over. In the face of an ongoing congressional investigation into the events of January 6th, the former president and a number of powerful Republican lawmakers continue to spread lies and sew division.
Americans have reason to protest, yet that right is being taken away in Republican states across the land. Even more egregious than the criminalization of protest, voting rights are also under assault in statehouses controlled by the GOP. Republicans’ efforts to suppress people’s right to vote led corporations to offer strongly worded condemnations and the Democrats to craft electoral reform legislation. The GOP is passing voter suppression laws not just to prevent people of color from voting but to make it easier to corroborate their failed narrative. These laws make it easier for people to make mistakes that could be misconstrued as support for bogus fraud allegations.
Like the former president, the GOP and conservative media accuse their opponents of what they themselves are guilty of. They do this to muddy the waters and gin up the ruse of blaming both sides. Now they are drawing a false equivalency between the January 6th insurrection and a recent sit-in protesting fossil fuels at the Interior building. A sensationalistic Fox News headline read, “Reminiscent of Jan. 6′: Violent protesters arrested after storming Interior Department, injuring officers” There is no equivalency between the climate protest in Washington DC and 1/6. Like the big lie of election fraud, it is another piece of disinformation designed to manipulate the gullible. While insurrectionists should be reviled by Americans and prosecuted by the courts, peaceful protestors should be free to continue bettering America’s democracy.
This is what the Washington DC climate protest looked like
This is what the beginning of the insurection looked like