Twitter Explained | Can We Compare Daunte Wright with Ashli Babbitt?

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Some critics of the comparison say Babbitt deserved it for participating in the January 6 riots. 

And while they were playing the blame game, some users threw culpability onto former President Donald Trump.

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.

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. 

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