Riots in Philly: A glaring example of the racial double standard in America
The fourth of February is a day that will go down in Philadelphia history: The Eagles won their first Super Bowl ever, beating the Patriots in a commendable 41-33 score. The riots that followed would have also gone down in Philadelphia history, infamously, for being violent, disgraceful, and immoral, if they weren’t in celebration of a football win. Fortunately for Philly fans, rioting is only condemned by the country and met with police brutality when it is in response to a basic human right––the right to live––being violated.
Sunday night, hoards of boisterous Eagles fans took to the streets of Philadelphia to celebrate their first Super Bowl win, but the night plunged into chaos after only an hour. What took place was a riot in its most extreme form. Fans of the Philad elphia Eagles did not hesitate to flip cars, break department store windows, set fireworks in the streets, rip lampposts from the ground, loot and destroy gas stations, punch police horses in the face, climb on awnings until they collapsed, block off the streets, vandalize public property, start fires in the roads, knock down traffic lights, and throw rocks and glass bottles at police officers. The violent commotion was met with gentle pleas of “Go home” from policemen, news outlets such as FoxNews calling the riot “a joyous party that got rowdy”, jokes across social media that found the heinous acts funny, and a mere three arrests.
These responses may not seem outrageous or out of the ordinary unless compared to the responses generated over some of the Black Lives Matter riots which were similar in fashion to the “celebrations” of Eagles fans.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, as defined by the organization itself, is a member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes, working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise. Over two thousand BLM protests and other demonstrations have taken place across the United States, yet the ones in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, which resulted in rioting, are the ones people turn their attention towards; often condemning the BLM movement for “inciting violence”. It should be noted that the same arguments have been used in the past by detractors of Martin Luther King.
The march that began in Ferguson, Missouri as a non violent protest in response to the police killing of Michael Brown, was initially met with militaristic force. Police came armed to the fullest, brandishing pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles, and tear gas. They also used armored vehicles to instill intimidation within the crowds of unarmed protest ers. This was not the response of police while Eagles fans were destroying the city of Philadelphia over a football game. The mayor of Philadelphia spoke out saying only three arrests were made, yet there were over a hundred arrests in Ferguson, the majority not for arson or burglary, but for refusal to disperse, according to a poll released by the Washington Post. Of course, the Ferguson protests took place over the course of eleven days, but the average number of arrests per day for refusal to disperse in Ferguson, Missouri –– keep in mind failure to disperse was a major problem faced by police in Philadelphia too–– was 6.8; more than double the arrests that occurred Sunday night. There were even as high as nineteen arrests in a single day for this offense in Ferguson, seventeen on two other nights, and fourteen on another. A man named Josh Williams was sentenced to eight years in prison for setting a fire during the protest in Ferguson, but was anyone arrested for the fire that was started in the middle of a street in Philly? Probably not.
Why is it acceptable to go absolutely crazy to the point of destroying public property and throwing bottles at police officers when celebrating a football victory, but non-violent protesters gathering to end police brutality and racial injustice is cause for rifles, tear gas, and police intimidation? An officer who was present for the celebrations in Philadelphia made a statement saying, “Tens of thousands came out and celebrated this amazing victory last night, and but for a handful of bad actors the celebration was peaceful and jubilant.” Why has the entire Black Lives Matter movement been continuously chastised for being violent, even though thousands of completely peaceful marches and protests have been held? Why not blame the chaos that erupted during a few of these protests on “bad actors” as well? Even our President has been silent on the matter of the dangerous rioting by Eagles fans, but in a Fox News interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump says Black Lives Matter members are “looking for trouble”.
The blatant differences in the way both riots are represented and responded to proves that there is a clear racial double standard that is plaguing our country. The President of the Black Lives Matter organization commented on this unjust discrimination in an interview with Newsweek stating, “Somehow, it seems there’s a line drawn in the sand where destruction of property because of a sports victory is OK and acceptable in America. However, if you have people who are fighting for their most basic human right, the right to live, they will be condemned.”
This contrast has also been commented on by Liz Posner, editor of the news magazine AlterNet, and writer for Forbes, who said, “Riots following major sports events are generally reported with humor and exasperation, while those triggered by police shootings are used as an excuse to pathologize the Black Lives Matter movement and the black community.”
Rioting, defined as a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd, is never permissible under any circumstance. It is the wrong way to get any point or message across. It is caused within both BLM protests and Eagles fans’ celebrations by a select few ‘bad apples’. But the problem is the way each is approached by the public, the media, and even our President. Generalizing members of BLM as violent while saying Eagles fans are “rowdy” and “excitable”, is point blank racism. Black Lives Matter is a meaningful movement that deserves support for seeking justice for the black community, not negative attention over riots that took place years ago.
To put this in even more perspective, let’s compare a news site that reported on both the Eagles fans riots, as well as BLM riots. APnews, in 2017 (9/17/17) posted an article about a BLM protest that took place in St. Louis as “violent”, and described how protesters broke windows and threw objects at police officers. This same type of behavior was conveyed in a different tone when APnews released an article the day after the Super Bowl (2/5/18) reporting that the city officials had “cleaning up to do” after fans “turned unruly overnight”. The same behavior of breaking windows and throwing bottles at city officials were described as the activities of a few “rowdies”. Two riots, painted in two different lights, by the same news outlet. It is disgraceful, and we as a country should not tolerate this bias anymore.
In conclusion, rioting is never excusable, but a riot over the success of a football team should be met with the same outrage, if not more, than a riot that took place during a predominantly non-violent protest over the unjust killing of unarmed black men by police officers.