On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released the results of a massive poll on the George Floyd protests. Pew surveyed 9,654 Americans between June 4 and June 10. While Pew focused on the demographic makeup of those who said they attended rallies — recent protest attendees are more racially and ethnically diverse, younger than Americans overall — the poll also revealed that most Americans said that instigators using the protests as an excuse to engage in criminal behavior (looting, rioting, and arson) contributed “a great deal” to the protests.
Pew asked respondents, “How much, if at all, do you think each of the following has contributed to the demonstrations to protest the death of George Floyd?”
Not surprisingly, most Americans (70 percent) said “anger over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by police” contributed “a great deal.” Most said the same about “tensions between black people and police” (69 percent) and “longstanding concerns about the treatment of black people in the country” (65 percent).
Americans of all political persuasions are rightly angry about the horrific police killing of George Floyd, President Donald Trump very much included. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey acted quickly to fire the police involved, and they have been arrested and charged. Protesting the killing of George Floyd is a noble cause, but tragically, the protests devolved into looting, vandalism, and arson that destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments.
While respondents rightly said anger over George Floyd’s death contributed “a great deal” to the protests, they also acknowledged that “some people taking advantage of the situation to engage in criminal behavior” also contributed to the impact of the story.
More than half (59 percent) of Americans said the rioting contributed “a great deal” to the protests, while another quarter (26 percent) said it contributed “some.” Only 4 percent gave the answer many media outlets appear to have settled on — that the riots contributed “not at all.”
It is difficult to gauge exactly what these Americans thought of the criminal behavior from this survey. The phrasing in the question about which elements “contributed to the demonstrations” is awkward, especially since I’d wager most Americans would say the criminal behavior detracted from the righteous anger over Floyd’s death and the cause of the protests.
Yet Americans cannot deny that the rioting, looting, and arson took place, nor that it was tied up with the protests — though the protests themselves were mostly peaceful.
Many left-leaning media outlets have downplayed the destruction of the riots.
NewsBusters analyzed 710 minutes of protest coverage from the morning and evening programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC between May 28 and June 3, and found that the networks spent less than 1 percent of their coverage mentioning the people killed in the protests. They dedicated a paltry five minutes to the lives snuffed out by the violence.
“Television journalists have made no secret of their support for the nationwide protests over the past week. But perhaps because of that support, they’ve been reluctant to discuss the deaths that have taken place across the country as protests devolved into riots,” NewsBusters media editor Bill D’Agostino wrote. “When one considers just how little time the broadcast networks have spared for the victims of these riots, their insistent chorus of “mostly peaceful, mostly peaceful” starts to sound more like damage control than factual reporting.”
Left-leaning outlets also downplayed the aggressive antifa takeover of a police precinct and six blocks of Seattle in the establishment of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ). Tom Bevan, co-founder and president of RealClearPolitics, exposed the legacy media’s blatant double standard, writing that “f a bunch of MAGAs took over a section of Seattle & declared their independence, the media would lose their marbles.”
CNN hosts and a reporter carried water for the rioters. On June 2, CNN host Chris Cuomo said, “Show me where it says protesters are supposed to be peaceful.”
On May 30, CNN host Don Lemon suggested the riots would be a “mechanism,” giving activists the chance to “restructure … our country.”
CNN reporter Sara Sidner, in seeking to explain the rioting, arguably ended up excusing it.
“I know people see violence and think that people are just taking advantage of the situation and there may be some people who are,” Sidner told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “I don’t know that every single person is doing this borne out of pain. But I can tell you many people are. We’ve seen it. They don’t know what to do with that emotion.”
“So their response, especially young folks, is to lash out,” she continued. “And one of the young folks, we talk to him on your show, you had him on your show A young man who was from Minneapolis who said, ‘Do you see all this damage here, you don’t listen to us when we speak, so you listen to us now.’”
In perhaps the most egregious example of left-leaning media attempting to hush up the destruction of the protests, a HuffPost writer urged liberals to “cancel” black celebrities who dared to lament the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of innocent black people victimized by the riots. In some cases, the writer condemned black celebs for daring to speak out about how the riots harmed their personal friends.
This poll gives the lie to leftist attempts to memory-hole the riots’ destruction. Americans know the lawless violence of the riots was a key part of the story, and they almost certainly disapprove of the wanton destruction the left-leaning media seems so quick to brush aside.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.