When Ashli Babbitt tried to get into the Speaker’s Lobby on January 6, she was shot and killed by a police officer. On Monday, the Associated Press ran a story about her. In the face of efforts by former President Trump and his allies to make Babbitt a martyr, the article says that she was “far more complicated than the heroic picture presented by Trump and his allies.”
However, even if she did that, it’s irrelevant. Babbitt’s behavior on January 6 is proof enough that she does not deserve to be a martyr. The idea of digging up stories about Babbitt’s past that have no real news value is both unnecessary and bad.
The article talks about a long-term relationship that Babbitt had with a male coworker while she was married and he had a long-term girlfriend, Celeste Norris (Babbitt and the man in question, Aaron Babbitt, later married after separating from their respective partners). Babbitt rammed Norris’ car in traffic, then jumped out and screamed through the locked doors. Norris later tried to get restraining orders against Babbitt, and he got a lot of them.
The story may be interesting, but it has nothing to do with the events that led to Babbitt’s death. On the other hand, the events of that day show that she wasn’t the kind of person the former president and his supporters are making her out to be. One of the hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol was Babbitt. They broke windows and kicked in doors to get in.
She was part of a group that was trying to break into a door that led to the Speaker’s Lobby while other people were still being evacuated. Babbitt tried to climb through a hole in the broken door when she was confronted by Capitol Police officers. At that point, an officer shot her, killing her.
It was very bad how Babbitt acted right before she died. But to report on things that have nothing to do with her now is shameful on its own.
In fact, the posthumous attempt to put Babbitt in a new context is very similar to the reverse hagiographies that are written about black people who have been killed by police. Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell in 2015, after she was arrested for not putting out her cigarette during a traffic stop.
The district attorney said that Bland was “not a model person.” When Ferguson police officer Michael Brown was killed, the New York Times said he was “no angel.” It has been a long time since Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in May 2020. Some people on the right have said that Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose and was not an angel but a “drug addict.”
Even if the accusations were true that Bland was violent, Brown had a history of violence, and Floyd was a drug addict, that would not change the fact that police acted wrongly and used too much force in each case, which led to these victims’ deaths.
We should reject this media strategy when it is used against black men and women who have been slain by police, and we should criticize it in Babbitt’s case as well.
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