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"I wonder how many protesters I could run over." GOP has openly advocated road violence

The deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday have rocked the entire nation. As neo-Nazis protested the removal of Confederate monuments and clashed with locals and police in Emancipation Park, one man violently mowed down counterprotestors with his car, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. The perpetrator, James Alex Fields, Jr., is being […]

By Matthew Chapman - August 13, 2017
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Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA
Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA

As neo-Nazis protested the removal of Confederate monuments and clashed with locals and police in Emancipation Park, one man violently mowed down counterprotestors with his car, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. The perpetrator, James Alex Fields, Jr., is being charged with murder.

The reaction across the country was immediate outrage from all corners. Democrats and Republicans alike decried the violence — though Donald Trump could barely bring himself to do so even partway.

But Republican condemnations ring hollow, given that many in the party have for months openly advocated running down protestors with cars.

In March, in response to Native Americans demonstrating against Trump’s support for the Dakota Access Pipeline, Daily Caller editor Katie Frates tweeted, and then deleted, “I wonder how many #NativeNationsRise #NoDAPL protestors I could run over before I got arrested #getoutofmyway”.

Frates is not alone. Numerous right-wingers have produced memes fantasizing about running down protestors:

https://twitter.com/carlbeijer/status/896441238689337344

This would be bad enough if it were just trolls on social media. But Republican state legislators have also been proposing laws that would effectively make it legal to hit protestors with cars.

The North Carolina House of Representatives proposed two bills targeting protestors in roads — one that would declare them guilty of a new crime called “economic terrorism” and one that would strip protestors of the right to sue drivers who hit them.

Similar bills banning protestors injured by cars from suing drivers were proposed by Republicans in Tennessee and North Dakota.

Another GOP bill in Indiana, while it did not explicitly relax penalties on hitting pedestrians, directed police to use “any means necessary” to break up protests in roads, which would appear to encourage violence. The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Tim Jones, claimed protestors in roads are a lethal menace because they prevent emergency vehicles reaching people in time, but when pressed could not name one example of that happening.

Dangerous rhetoric leads to dangerous outcomes. Republicans should not be surprised, after repeatedly demonizing and denying the rights of protestors in roads, that the end result was violence.


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