Detroit reporter describes differences between US Capitol riot, BLM protests

Huffington Post reporter says law enforcement handled situations very differently

Michigan native Phil Lewis, who works for the Huffington Post, shares his experience in covering both events.

The insurrection that took place in Washington, D.C. Wednesday was difficult to watch on TV, but imagine being in the middle of it all, covering it as a reporter.

Phil Lewis, a Detroiter and senior front page editor for the Huffington Post, was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when the chaos unfolded.

“I’m still trying to gather my thoughts about what I saw yesterday,” Lewis said Thursday.

The reporter had the opportunity to witness two historic events in Washington: Lewis covered the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests during the summer of 2020. He says he was there on the streets covering the events after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in May.

Then, on Jan. 6, Lewis was at the U.S. Capitol when pro-Trump rioters stormed the buildings, saying he “saw some video of police letting the Trump supporters in the area.”

Lewis says covering both events should be easy as a journalist, but noticing the difference between how police interacted with the two different groups has been tough to digest.

Read: Race double standard clear in rioters’ Capitol insurrection

Over the summer, Lewis says officers dispersed BLM protesters in a matter of minutes.

“The majority of us were on Black Lives Matter Plaza, which is a strip (in D.C.), and the way they were able to clear out the protestors of that area...When (police) were like, ‘OK, we don’t want you all down here anymore,’ they were able to clear out protestors in an instant. Flashbangs, rubber bullets; I was actually hit in the leg by a rubber bullet,” Lewis said.

But the Detroit-native said his experience was much different while covering the deadly riot at the Capitol on Wednesday

“What I noticed yesterday was the level of force protesters and journalists received in D.C. was not the same, at all,” Lewis said.

The reporter says he was frightened for his safety and the safety of others while covering both the riot and the BLM protests -- but says, as a journalist, it’s his job to get the news out and accurately capture the events unfolding around us.

Related: Michigan leaders condemn ‘double standard’ of treatment of mostly white rioters at US Capitol