In the week since a mob laid siege to the Capitol in a stunning display of violence, police officers in D.C. and beyond have struggled to make sense of what happened. The Jan. 6 attack, which claimed the life of one responding officer and preceded the suicide of another, pitted law enforcement against one of its most loyal allies: Trump supporters.
Gruesome footage shows rioters in MAGA hats brandishing “Stop the Steal” signs and Trump flags dragging an unidentified officer by his helmet and beating him to chants of “Get him!” and “Take him out!” Another video shows the massive crowd crushing a young cop into a metal doorway as he screams and bleeds from his mouth. Brian Sicknick, the slain 15-year veteran of the Capitol Police department, was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher.
Inside cops-only message boards and other pro-law enforcement media groups online, police officers are grappling with how a group that usually proclaims “Blue Lives Matter” could turn its wrath on them. Instead of facing the uncomfortable implications of the siege, many are pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that the chaos was orchestrated by anti-fascist activists who disguised themselves in a scheme to make the president and his base look bad.
Other conversations are clear-eyed about who was responsible for the riot — and more sympathetic. “Just heard a report shots fired inside the Capital!! Like the ghetto hopefully the right people get shot!!! 😉” wrote one user on Thee Rant, a web forum popular among far-right current and former members of the New York Police Department.
The online ecosystem for law enforcement officers is shot through with right-wing politics and wild conspiracy theories. While not necessarily representative of mainstream beliefs among the nation’s police, there are already emerging signs that the toxic politics of online spaces like Thee Rant can spill over into real-life action. [Continue reading…]