April 24, 2021

HECK, MOST OF THESE TRUMPISTS WOULD DO IT JUST FOR THE 72 RAISINS:

The Right to Crash Cars Into People (Apr. 24th, 2021, New Republic)

To understand what's really behind the bill, recall that it comes less than four years after a 20-year-old neo-Nazi named James Alex Fields Jr. deliberately drove a Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people counterprotesting the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fields injured scores of people and killed a woman named Heather Heyer. The obvious and immediate response to this intentional attack was nearly universal shock and horror. Fields was charged with murder and convicted. But since just before that attack, and even more so after it, Republican elected officials across the country have been trying to make it easier for certain people to run over certain other people.

Ari Weil, a researcher at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, counted six states that considered laws shielding drivers who attack protesters in 2017, but most of those "hit and kill" bills (as the ACLU refers to them) went nowhere. It took a few more years for the right-wing propaganda apparatus to fully numb conservative consciences, and prepare them to openly endorse an idea as plainly depraved as this one. In the meantime, the car attacks kept coming: In 2020, Weil tracked "72 incidents of cars driving into protesters across 52 different cities," over the span of just over a month. The online far right memed about running over demonstrators regularly, and cops openly encouraged it in social media comments. Cops also, in cities such as New York and Detroit, participated in the practice themselves. In Boston last year, Police Sergeant Clifton McHale was recorded on a police body camera bragging about hitting demonstrators with a police cruiser. His year of unpaid suspension is apparently up, and Eoin Higgins reports that he is back on duty.

Now lawmakers seem to have overcome whatever reticence they may once have felt about formally endorsing automobile attacks. Five states besides Florida introduced similar bills this year, granting some form of immunity to people running into demonstrators. The Iowa measure passed the state House and awaits Senate approval. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt just signed another version into law in his state. This one shields attacking drivers from criminal liability.

The impetus for the Oklahoma bill, according to the Republican lawmaker who authored it, was an incident in which a pickup truck driver drove into a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Tulsa, paralyzing one person. The driver claimed to be scared and, notably, was not charged with a crime. That is to say that it was apparently already legal to drive into protesters in Oklahoma; these politicians merely helped clarify that fact.

A few years ago, most people would have seen "politically motivated vehicle attacks" as a terrorist tactic pioneered by ISIS. Now American police regularly carry out these kinds of attacks, and Republican policymakers have officially endorsed the practice.



Posted by at April 24, 2021 12:00 AM

  

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