Ashli Babbitt’s Violent Past Doesn’t Justify Her Death

The Associated Press published a Monday report on Ashli Bubbitt, the Capitol rioter, who was killed and shot by a cop while trying to get into the Speaker’s Lobby. The article, which is counter to the claims of former President Donald Trump’s supporters that Babbitt should be made a martyr, claims to show that Babbitt was “far more complex than the heroic portrait painted by Trump and his aides.”

This is true but it is irrelevant: Babbitt’s behaviour on January 6 clearly shows that she does not deserve martyr status. It is inappropriate and unnecessary to dig up a few sexy stories about Babbitt from her past.

This article describes a relationship that Babbitt had for years with a male colleague while she was married. He also had a long-term girlfriend, Celeste Norris. (Babbitt married Aaron Babbitt after they separated from their partners. Babbitt assaulted Norris while she was driving, ramming her vehicle and then jumping out of the car to scream through the doors. Norris sought multiple restraining orders for Babbitt, which she received.

The story is salacious but it doesn’t have any bearing on what led to Babbitt being killed. It is clear that her actions that day proved that she wasn’t the saintly figure the former president and supporters claim she to be. Babbitt was part of hundreds that rushed into the Capitol and broke windows, and kicked in doors. While lawmakers were being evacuated, Babbitt was one of a number who attempted to open a door to the Speaker’s Lobby. Babbitt was confronted by Capitol Police officers and attempted to climb through the opening in the damaged door. At that point, an officer opened fire, killing her.

Babbitt was a terrible person in the moments leading to her suicide. It is also shameful to mention events that are completely different from Babbitt’s past.

Babbitt’s posthumous effort to recontextualize Babbitt is reminiscent of the reverse hagographies often written about police brutality victims. In 2015, after Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell under suspicious circumstances, after initially being arrested for not putting out her cigarette during a traffic stop, the district attorney averred that Bland was “not a model person.” One year prior, Michael Brown died in an encounter with Ferguson police officers. The New York Times described him as “no angel.” Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in May 2020. Some right-leaning people insist Floyd did die from an overdose of fentanyl. therefore“Not an angel” instead of a “drug addict”.

All of those reactions were rightly condemned at the time: Even if the allegations were correct—that Bland was combative, that Brown had a violent history, that Floyd was a drug addict—that would not change the facts of the individual cases, in which police acted wrongly and used excessive force, resulting in these victims’ deaths.

This media tactic should be condemned when it is applied to black police officers killed or injured, as well as Babbitt’s.