AP Stresses 'Peaceful,' 'Harmonious' Elements of Occasionally Violent Immigration Protests

A number of media outlets continue to hold water for the weekend's pro-illegal immigration protesters, as NewsBusters has reported, painting violence at many rallies as somehow unexpected or not representative of the larger movement.

While that characterization may be fair, the benefit of the doubt afforded to immigration protesters by some of the nation's leading media outlets stands in stark contrast to the coverage of Tea Party protests by those same outlets. Tea Parties rallies are guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the mainstream media.

"[W]hat started as a peaceful immigrants' rights march in downtown Santa Cruz turned violent, requiring police to call other agencies for help, authorities said," read the lede of an Associated Press report. Since no Tea Party rally has turned violent, we can't make a direct comparison. But it is safe to assume that a Tea Party protest looking like the one at top right -- and involving numerous incidents of vandalism and other crimes -- would be characterized simply as "violent" or some other ugly adjective.

The AP also labeled the protests as initially "harmonious" and parrots the possibility that infiltrators were actually responsible for the violence.

Close to 20 businesses were damaged after what started as a peaceful immigrants' rights march in downtown Santa Cruz turned violent, requiring police to call other agencies for help, authorities said.

Police spokesman Zach Friend said an estimated 250 people started marching through the city around 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

It was a harmonious but "unpermitted and unsanctioned event," he said, until some in the crowd started breaking windows and spraying paint on retail shops that line the downtown corridor.

Friend said he wasn't sure if the damage was caused by people marching in support of immigrants' rights, or if the group was "infiltrated by anarchists."

Anarchy signs were spray-painted on some of the buildings.

"They're a group of people who seem to fancy themselves as revolutionaries, but what they really are are a group of morons," Friend said.

So in all, the "harmonious" and "peaceful" protest for "immigrant rights" tragically "turned violent," possibly due to nefarious anarchists (also "morons") who had "infiltrated" the protest. And of course anecdotal evidence of all of this is repeated without serious challenge.

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto compares this AP story's lede to that of an AP piece on the Washington DC ObamaCare Tea Party protests. The first paragraph of that story read,

House Democrats heard it all Saturday--words of inspiration from President Barack Obama and raucous chants of protests from demonstrators. And at times it was flat-out ugly, including some racial epithets aimed at black members of Congress.

As Taranto notes, "the claims of racial epithets have since been disputed and were never substantiated,"

but let's give the AP the benefit of the doubt and assume that at the time, the reporter knew of no reason to doubt the word of the congressmen making the claims.

Even so, had the tea-party protesters gotten the Santa Cruz treatment, the AP would have noted that the rally was completely nonviolent, even if it featured some ugly words; that there was no ugliness at all until the protest "turned ugly"; and that the people who (allegedly) shouted the ugly words might well have been infiltrators.

If the Santa Cruz protesters had gotten the tea-party treatment, by contrast, the AP would have described the event simply as a riot and would not have distinguished between the peaceful protesters and the violent few who might be infiltrators anyway. What's more, conservative politicians and commentators would be sounding a constant refrain--echoed by the mainstream media--that politicians are inciting the violence with "antigovernment" statements…

We don't think that journalists should give the Santa Cruz protesters the tea-party treatment or the tea partiers the Santa Cruz treatment. Both sides ought to get the same treatment--fair treatment--from those whose job is to cover the news impartially.

Yes, they ought to. Maybe some day they will. Today is not that day.