I first noticed the name Ashli Babbitt trending on Twitter late last Tuesday afternoon. It took me a moment to remember why it sounded familiar. Ashli Babbitt? Right—the sole rioter killed by Capitol Police during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S Capitol (three other protestors died—one from a heart attack, one from a stroke, and a third was crushed by fellow rioters).
Mentions of Babbitt’s name spiked when, in response to outrage over the April 11 fatal police shooting of 20-year old Daunte Wright, conservatives began equating his death to that of Ashli Babbitt.
Let’s compare the facts. Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old white female Air Force veteran, was shot and killed by Capitol Police on January 6 while climbing through a broken-in window at the U.S. Capitol as part of a riotous mob. Daunte Wright, a 20-year old Black man, was shot and killed by Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop after a brief struggle with the police regarding an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Those claiming a comparison argue that both Babbitt and Wright were unarmed and shot while non-violently resisting the authority of law enforcement.
Ashli Babbitt had NO weapons on her. I refuse to believe that she thought she was going to “overthrow the government” and “kill politicians” with a flag and a smartphone. You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to me. That woman did not deserve to die. Restrain, sure. Die? NO.
— Suburban Black Man (@goodblackdude) April 14, 2021
Tensions were already high in Minnesota and online—Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd was happening just 10 miles away from where Wright was shot with nearly constant coverage on the web. And this comparison only fanned the flames.
Those same people claim Ashli Babbitt didn’t have to follow instructions. She was the white color to question authority.
— (@mk_indy) April 12, 2021
Me, after opening Twitter to find that Conservatives are attempting to justify Daunte Wright’s killing by somehow comparing him to insurrectionist traitor Ashli Babbitt. pic.twitter.com/ig4C5Lr9mQ
— Jake Lobin (@JakeLobin) April 13, 2021
Who killed Ashli Babbit?
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) April 13, 2021
Conservative tweeters began throwing the Black Lives Matter slogan back at its supporters, even mimicking the movement’s emphasis on saying the names of victims of police brutality.
Why doesn’t Ashli Babbitt’s life matter?
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) April 14, 2021
Yes, and her name is Ashli Babbitt. https://t.co/IEWgbM0JfZ
— Carol Peter (@CarolPeter3333) April 12, 2021
The conversation really picked up when tweeters began questioning why the Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbit remained unnamed while Kimberly Potters’ name had been released almost immediately after the shooting.
Duane Wright didn’t deserve to die, neither did Ashli Babbitt.
How come one cop was named and arrested in under 3 days and the other not prosecuted or named after 3 months?
— Rising serpent 🇺🇸 (@rising_serpent) April 14, 2021
Ashli Babbitt was killed three months ago. We still don’t know the name of her killer. Why?
— Mike Shakur (@MrMichaelShakur) April 13, 2021
One tongue-in-cheek tweeter pointed out the contradiction between some Trumper’s insistence that the January 6 riot was staged by ANTIFA and the current attempt to frame Ashli Babbitt as a martyr for the right.
Why are Trumpers concerned with Ashli Babbitt? I thought they told us all the attackers were all ANTIFA. So is the new MAGA story that everyone was ANTIFA except Trump loving Ashli Babbitt?!
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) April 14, 2021
At this point, “Ashli Babbitt” has been trending for at least a day—an impressive feat in our fast-paced news cycle. And she continued to trend into the afternoon of Wednesday, April 14 when news broke that no charges would be filed against the Capitol Police officer who shot Babbitt. On that same day, Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter for killing Wright.
BREAKING: Federal prosecutors say no charges will be filed against a U.S. Capitol Police officer who fatally shot a woman during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Ashli Babbitt, 35, was one of five people who died amid the mayhem. https://t.co/uGSAuYFjhF
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 14, 2021
The almost too perfect yet seemingly coincidental timing of these announcements made for more lively Twitter talk, with accusations of racism being thrown around from the left and the right.
Conservatives are upset that the unknown Capitol Police Officer who shot & killed Ashli Babbitt isn’t facing charges, which is just more proof that they support domestic terrorism above all else.
— Jake Lobin (@JakeLobin) April 14, 2021
If you’re outraged there are no charges for the officer who killed Ashli Babbitt while she committed violent insurrection, but defend the acquittal of the officer who killed Tamir Rice as he played in the park—thank you for showing us what racism looks like.
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. قاسم رشید (@QasimRashid) April 14, 2021
BREAKING REPORT: NO charges for capital police officer in fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt….
This is unbelievable… It’s definitely only an issue based on race now… and it’s reverse racism at that…
— Matt Couch (@RealMattCouch) April 14, 2021
Some critics of the comparison say Babbitt deserved it for participating in the January 6 riots.
There will be no charges filed against the Capitol police officer who shot and killed insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt, because she fucking deserved it.
— Kyla In The Burgh 🏳️🌈🏴☠️ (@KylaInTheBurgh) April 14, 2021
And while they were playing the blame game, some users threw culpability onto former President Donald Trump.
If anyone should be charged for Ashli Babbitt’s death, it’s Donald trump.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) April 14, 2021
It did matter. Question is:
Why did Ashli Babbitt throw her life away for the lies of a con man who didn’t give a crap about her or anyone else except himself.
— Tim McDevitt ☘ 🍺⚾ (@TMcDevitt11) April 14, 2021
Others pointed out the now-obvious ironic hypocrisy in the oft-used justification for police brutality against Black men—that they brought it on themselves by resisting police instruction or having previously committed some minor crime.
Odd, Ashli was told to back down out of that window, and didn’t comply. Yet, every time a Black man gets shot, thats the first thing they say….why didn’t he comply?
— Donna Vox (@Donnavox) April 14, 2021
Or Ashli Babbitt, who put herself in harm’s way due to her criminal intent. Does it really need to be said again? There would be no talk of charging anyone for her death if she was a male POC, right. “He brought it on himself”.
— Marquis ChaCha (@chacha_marquis) April 14, 2021
But the greatest irony of all is that, in all this time that Ashli Babbitt’s name was trending because of her comparison to Daunte Wright, Wright’s name never made it to my “Trending” sidebar. Whether or not Ashli Babbitt deserves “justice”—whatever that means in these tragic situations—Daunte Wright does not deserve to have his death and name eclipsed by that of another.
And with all this talk over who was more deserving of death and whether the law enforcement officers in question should be viewed as heroes or murderers, few tweeters bothered to ask what we could be doing differently to prevent tragedies like these from happening again.