After a Capitol police officer was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher during the January 6 2021 insurrection, a photograph from 2020 Black Lives Matter protests circulated, which contrasted the death of one officer at the hands of insurrectionists with the protection of another at a demonstration for human rights:
In the above tweet, a single officer in riot gear is surrounded by men at a crowded protest. That tweet read:
I keep thinking about how a cop got separated from his group during a BLM protest and the protesters formed a human barricade and protected him and how last week the #MAGATerrorists beat a cop to death with a fire extinguisher for being at work.
We’re not the same.
A Capitol Police Officer Was Beaten to Death with a Fire Extinguisher
On January 8 2021, the Associated Press reported the death of Capitol law enforcement officer Brian Sicknick, in an article beginning: “The police were badly outnumbered.” The piece went on to note that individuals who participated in the insurrection vocalized an expectation that police at the United States Capitol could, and would, enable their actions in return for their purported support.
Sicknick died of injuries sustained when a participant or participants struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher:
Throughout the melee, police officers were injured, mocked, ridiculed and threatened. One Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died Thursday night [January 7 2021] from injuries suffered during the riot. The melee was instigated by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump who have professed their love of law enforcement and derided the mass police reform protests that shook the nation last year following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We backed you guys in the summer,” one protester screamed at three officers backed against a door by dozens of men screaming for them to get out of their way. “When the whole country hated you, we had your back!”
Sicknick, 42, was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher during a struggle, two law enforcement officials said, although it was not clear if he was the officer shown in the video. The officials could not discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
At least fifty Capitol police officers were injured in the course of events at the Capitol on January 6 2021; meanwhile, two officers have been suspended and ten investigated for their possible roles in the insurrection:
The spokesperson said at least 10 Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their roles in the riot.
A House aide separately said there are as many as 17 officers under investigation as part of eight investigations into the insurrection at the Capitol.
Officers Injured or Killed at Differing Protests
Using Google to search for “how many officers were injured at the Capitol” initially populated “how many officers were injured at BLM protests,” leading to an August 2020 fact-check by PolitiFact.com:
As for the numbers claimed in the post, the U.S. Justice Department told us it does not have figures on officer injuries or property damage resulting from civil disturbances, and the FBI said it had no comment. There are scattered news reports that don’t entirely back up each part of the claim, and we found no official figures.
CLAIM: Photos show four police officers who were injured by Democrats and Black Lives Matter rioters over the weekend [in August 2020] in Portland, Seattle and nearby cities.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The four photos in a post being shared on social media show police officers who sustained injuries in various parts of Australia in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2019. Their injuries were not related to Black Lives Matter protests or other demonstrations in the U.S.
THE FACTS: On Aug. 25 , a grid of four photos featuring bloodied and bandaged police officers was circulating widely on Facebook with more than 1,200 shares and 56,000 views.
On October 31 2020, The Guardian profiled Americans killed during the course of various protests in 2020.
‘Kill Him with His Own Gun’
As disturbing details about the events of January 6 2021 continued slowly coming to light, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone spoke to CNN about injuries he sustained during the insurrection — including a heart attack.
Fanone described being outnumbered, and hearing “some guys” proposing they “kill him with his own gun”:
As DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone lay on the ground at the US Capitol building, stunned and injured, he knew a group of rioters were stripping him of his gear. They grabbed spare ammunition, ripped the police radio off his chest and even stole his badge.
Then, Fanone, who had just been Tasered several times in the back of the neck, heard something chilling that made him go into survival mode.
“Some guys started getting a hold of my gun and they were screaming out, ‘Kill him with his own gun,'” said Fanone, who’s been a police officer for almost two decades.
Fanone pleaded with the men not to kill him, and said a “group within the rioters” shielded him from his attackers:
“So, the other option I thought of was to try to appeal to somebody’s humanity. And I just remember yelling out that I have kids. And it seemed to work,” said the 40-year-old father of four.
A group within the rioters circled Fanone and protected him until help arrived, saving his life.
“Thank you, but f*** you for being there,” Fanone said of the rioters who protected him in that moment.
Several other officers spoke to CNN about the violent mob from which they narrowly escaped, including Officer Daniel Hodges:
Hodges raced to the Capitol to offer support like many others and soon found himself being assaulted from an angry mob that, he said, believed they were patriots.
“There’s a guy ripping my mask off, he was able to rip away the baton and beat me with it,” said Hodges, who was stuck in the door and added that his arm was bent before they ripped the weapon away.
“He was practically foaming at the mouth so just, these people were true believers in the worst way.”
Hodges was eventually rescued by other officers who eventually came to his aid.
Officer Christina Laury told CNN she was sprayed with bear mace, and witnessed officers being beaten and attacked with chemicals during the attacks, which lasted for hours:
“Unfortunately, [bear mace] shuts you down for a while. It’s way worse than pepper spray,” Laury added. “It seals your eyes shut. … You’ve got to spray and douse yourself with water. And in those moments it’s scary because you can’t see anything and have people that are fighting to get through … [Fellow officers] were getting hit with metal objects. Metal poles. I remember seeing pitchforks. They’re getting sprayed, knocked down[.”]
Black Lives Matter Protesters Protected an Officer With a ‘Human Barricade’
On June 6 2020, USA Today published an article from the Louisville Courier Journal with the headline, “‘They saved me’: How protesters protected a lone cop, a moment captured in powerful photos,” including a photograph of the same incident shown in the meme, but from a different angle.
Those images were captured in Louisville, Kentucky on May 28 2020, and they showed Louisville Metro Police Department officer Galen Hinshaw. Hinshaw described being vastly outnumbered as he realized he had been separated from fellow officers during the protest, adding that he began “preparing to be injured” and radioed for help.
The next moments of the tense protest were captured in a set of images which subsequently went viral. As Hinshaw nervously appraised his position, a man named Darrin Lee, Jr. stepped up to protect him. Eventually, four other men joined him; none of the five men knew one another before they co-operated to keep Hinshaw safe:
It was at this moment that a man emerged from the crowd in a red University of Louisville mask covering the lower half of his face. He put himself between the closest protester and Hinshaw.
The Courier Journal captured the moment in a photograph that has now been shared across the nation.
Local entrepreneur Darrin Lee Jr. spotted Hinshaw and the advancing crowd and linked arms with the stranger in the red mask.
“Once I saw the guy with the red mask step up, I said, ‘I gotta step up,’” said Lee, who also runs a child care center. “It was reactive. I just went.”
He had no idea what would happen next.
“I really thought at that moment, ‘Protect him. It really isn’t his fault.'” Lee said … Ultimately, five men formed a human shield to protect Hinshaw. All of them strangers to one another. Nobody knew the name of the man to his left or to his right. Three were black, one white, one Dominican — all linking arms to keep harm away from Hinshaw, himself half-Pakistani.
“A human was in trouble, and right is right,” said Ricky McClellan, a factory worker from Old Louisville who was locked onto Lee’s left arm.
After reaching the bridge and watching some protesters throwing rocks at police cars, McClellan spotted Hinshaw as he walked around the group and thought, “Whoa, you’re by yourself?”
McClellan watched as the crowd around Hinshaw grew larger and louder. Then he heard Lee yell, “Lock arms! Lock arms!”
That’s when Julian De La Cruz saw the men locking arms and jumped in.
“I saw the guys link up and I saw a weak spot,” De La Cruz said, and took up a position on the end of the line.
He was nervous, scared … Hinshaw’s squad arrived, and Lee escorted him back to his unit. Hinshaw thanked him.
After Sicknick was fatally wounded and many more Capitol police officers were injured and attacked, a viral image from May 2020 began circulating as part of the discourse around the violent right-wing insurrection attempt at the United States Capitol on January 6 2021. As the tweet described, the photograph showed five Black Lives Matter protesters in (who were previously strangers), collaborating to ensure a that police officer separated from his fellow officers remained safe. The photograph was authentic, accurately described, and it was newsworthy on its own at the time it was captured.