The Rise of the Thin Blue Line at Trump Rallies

  • 16 were official Trump rallies where Trump himself appeared, from which I found a total of 516 photographs. There were no Blue Lives Matter, pro-law enforcement or pro-“Law and Order” symbols in any of these photographs.
  • The other 8 events were Clinton rallies, anti-Trump protests, presidential debates, and one formal dinner, from which there were a total of 118 photographs. Once again, I didn’t see any pro-Blue Lives Matter or adjacent symbols in any of these photographs.
  • 13 were official Trump rallies where Trump himself appeared, from which there were a total of 1152 photographs. I found discernible pro-Blue Lives Matter symbols in 129 of these photographs, corresponding to 12 of the 13 rallies. In 12 photographs, I found symbols that could potentially be in support of the Blue Lives Matter movement.
  • 2 were pro-Trump demonstrations where Trump didn’t appear, from which there were a total of 58 photographs. I found discernible pro-Blue Lives Matter symbols in 25 of these photographs across both events.
  • 1 was an official Pence rally where Pence himself appeared, from which there were 18 total photographs and 1 photograph with a discernible Thin Blue Line flag.
  • 1 was a demonstration outside an early voting station in Florida, from which there were 2 photographs, both of which had discernible pro-Blue Lives Matter symbols.
  • 1 was a pro-Biden demonstration in Florida where Biden didn’t appear, from which there were 24 total photographs, 7 of which contained counter-protesters displaying discernible pro-Blue Lives Matter symbols.
  • 1 was an official Harris rally in Florida where Harris herself appeared, from which there were 3 total photographs, all of which contained counter-protesters displaying discernible pro-Blue Lives Matter symbols.
  • The other 15 events were official Biden rallies, White House press events, a rally for a Democratic politician, events related to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court (including ones affiliated with the Women’s March), and photographs taken outside Trump’s October 15th Town Hall, from which there were a total of 310 photographs. I didn’t see any pro-Blue Lives Matter or adjacent symbols in any of these photographs.
  1. Flags and banners being carried by supporters
  1. “Law & Order” symbology
  • The number of available photographs with pro-Blue Lives Matter symbols on Getty Images from a specific event doesn’t tell us much about the total number of occurrences of those symbols at that event (the photographer could have not captured all instances of a symbol or could have captured the same instance of a symbol more than once).
  • This data spans only two weeks’ worth of events.
  • In 2016 the events span only 9 states (New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Colorado), while in 2020 the events span only 14 states and DC (Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, California, Florida, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, Iowa, South Carolina, DC and New Jersey).
  • Some photographs contain hundreds of symbols that I combed through manually, so I may have missed symbols that were not displayed prominently enough.

Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

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