The prevailing images of protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., over police killings of black men were of police in riot gear, handcuffed protesters, tear gas, and mass arrests. Images of a fatal gun battle between armed bikers and police in Waco, Tx., showed mass arrests by nonchalant-looking officers sitting around calm bikers on cell phones. The Associated Press says the firefight in Waco raises questions about perceptions and portrayals of crime in in the U.S. AP says media critics, columnists and civil rights activists complain that there appears to be little societal concern about the gunplay at a restaurant in Texas, whereas politicians, including President Obama, described violent looters in Baltimore as “thugs,” and the media dissected social ills that affect the black community.
There were no deaths in the Baltimore and Ferguson protests, yet people stereotyped protesters as criminals, said Nicole Lee, a human rights lawyer who worked with protesters in both cities. “Nine people were killed in Waco, and yet you have not heard the level of disgust and dismay as you did over fires burning in Ferguson and in Baltimore,” Lee said. “One of the things the protesters always said was that while many of them disagreed with the property destruction, that you can rebuild property. But you can’t bring back people, and yet you’re not hearing an equal amount of disgust from the media and from people over what happened in Waco.” Civil rights attorney Charles F. Coleman Jr. said minority communities get blamed for violence, while no one blames white families or white communities for fatal violence by white men, characterizing such events instead as “isolated incidents.”