Fact Check: Michelle Obama Claims ‘Only a Fraction’ of Protests Have Been Violent

Kenosha riots afterman God and Law and Order (Scott Olson / Getty)
Scott Olson / Getty

CLAIM: Michelle Obama claimed that “[o]nly a tiny fraction of [recent] demonstrations have had any violence at all.”

VERDICT: MISLEADING. While a less than 10% of protests have been violent, 96% of major cities have had riots.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama claimed during a “closing argument” video released on behalf of Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday: “When Americans of all backgrounds peacefully protest racism and police violence, [Trump] disparages them, yet eggs on heavily armed militias.”

President Donald Trump has always encouraged “peaceful protest.” In his statement responding to the riots that broke out in late spring after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump said:

All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.

But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others. A number of state and local governments have failed to take necessary action to safeguard their residents. Innocent people have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas, who was left dying on the street, or the woman in Upstate New York viciously attacked by dangerous thugs.

Small-business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York’s Finest have been hit in the face with bricks. Brave nurses, who have battled the virus, are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct station has been overrun. Here in the nation’s capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African American enforcement hero, was shot and killed.

These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.

There is no record whatsoever of Trump backing “heavily armed militias.” In fact, he has repeatedly told supporters to “leave it to law enforcement” when confronted by violent left-wing mobs. (He did so again during, and after, the first presidential debate, when asked about the “Proud Boys.”)

Michelle Obama went on to claim:

The President and his allies are trying to tap into that frustration and distract from his breathtaking failures by giving folks someone to blame other than them. They’re stoking fears about Black and Brown Americans, lying about how minorities will destroy the suburbs, whipping up violence and intimidation and they’re pinning it all on what’s been an overwhelmingly peaceful movement for racial solidarity. It’s true, research backs it up. Only a tiny fraction of demonstrations have had any violence at all.

The former First Lady appears to be citing “research” from Princeton University. That study showed that less than 10% of the thousands of protests over the summer were violent. But it also showed that 48 out of the 50 largest U.S. cities by population experienced violence.

That is why the American public perceived the violence to be widespread. There was hardly any serious effort by organizers to keep protests non-violent, nor by Democratic Party politicians to criticize the violent nature of some of the protests — until after the rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which proved politically problematic for Biden’s political hopes.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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