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The shooting of Ashli Babbitt by Capitol police has echoes of BLM icon George Floyd’s murder… but she will have no golden coffin

Both died at the hands of police and both symbolise a cause, but US patriot Ashli Babbitt is branded a “domestic terrorist” after her death, while George Floyd became a martyr to millions and was buried in a gold-plated casket.

When Ashli Babbitt packed her Trump 2020 flag in her backpack and set off from her California home to join a pro-Trump rally on Wednesday, the last thing she would have expected was to end that trip lying on the floor of Washington’s Capitol building dying from a gunshot wound to her chest.

In a strange way, her death at the hands of a law enforcement official, has much in common with that of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man from Minneapolis who was murdered during a botched arrest attempt by a white policeman last May.

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Having just ducked out for some cigarettes, Floyd was soon to utter those immortal words “I can’t breathe,” which prefaced his death and led to global protests and the worldwide surge of interest in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Like Floyd, Ashli Babbitt was a regular, working-class American simply struggling to keep her pool supplies company afloat. She was a 14-year veteran of four tours of the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, as a security forces controller. After leaving the military in 2016 she had her ups and downs, just like George. But like him, her sudden death was unexpected. And like him, it came at the hands of policemen and has caused tremendous uproar.

Only one, however, will go to their grave condemned by President-elect Joe Biden as a “domestic terrorist.” And that is not George Floyd.

Although he had a five-year prison stretch behind him, was a habitual drug user and at the time of his arrest was thought to be attempting to pass counterfeit money, now none of that matters. He was buried in a ‘Promethean’ gold-plated casket – like Michael Jackson and James Brown – estimated to have cost $30,000 during a funeral at which boxing champion Floyd Mayweather picked up the tab.

The coffin, the service, the celebrity paying the bill; all these were not because George Floyd was necessarily a valued member of the community whose contributions to society would be sorely missed. It was because of what his death represented. George is a modern-day martyr to a cause.

Just as many will inevitably claim Ashli Babbitt is to hers. 

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This simple 35-year-old Californian described herself on Twitter as a Libertarian who loved her “dude,” dog and country. That image doesn’t quite chime with that of Biden’s insensitive rebuke of the protesters as “domestic terrorists.”

It is unlikely that anyone will be calling for a gold-plated casket in which to bury Ashli Babbitt, but you would expect that as veteran with a long career of honourable military service, she might be laid to rest with the Stars and Stripes draped over her coffin.

That could put the US Department of Veterans Affairs in an awkward position. If the family requests as much, the flag should be provided as it relates only to Babbitt’s service record while in the USAF, not what she did once discharged.

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© Getty Images / Sergio Flores
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While she might have flirted with the flat-earthers of QAnon and retweeted bonkers conspiracy theories as she explored politics free of the oversight of military service, these are not crimes under current US law and don’t point to her being some mad racist, Nazi, satanist or terrorist.

Those who insisted on highlighting the flawed character of George Floyd were widely condemned, and now those efforts to paint Ashli Babbitt as something she wasn’t should also be resisted.

While neither of these symbols of a deeply divided country could be called saints, George Floyd will always be remembered as the unwitting instigator of a movement that changed the way we think about race.

Ashli Babbitt’s legacy is yet to be determined but she does not deserve condemnation for choosing to be a patriot. Joe Biden should take note.

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