These State Lawmakers Indulged the Violent Fantasy of Ramming Protesters With a Car

Justin Burr of North Carolina, Pat Fallon of Texas, and Bill Ketron of Tennessee have introduced bills promoting the idea that it's okay to run over protesters with a car.
Justin Burr of North Carolina, Pat Fallon of Texas, and Bill Ketron of Tennessee have introduced bills promoting the idea that it's okay to run over protesters with a car.

After the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Americans have now seen homegrown terrorists adopt the tactics of ISIS. James Alex Fields, 21, drove his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators — killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

The violence of the rally was so ghastly that Republican officials rushed to distance themselves from it. But let’s not forget that Fields was acting on an impulse that some lawmakers have encouraged.

In the aftermath of Black Lives Matter and Dakota Access Pipeline protests, lawmakers in Tennessee, North Dakota, Rhode IslandTexas, Florida, and North Carolina introduced legislation that would indemnify drivers who smash into crowds.

We want to name a few names.

  • Rep. Keith Kempenich in North Dakota compared Dakota Access Pipeline and Black Lives Matter protesters to terrorists in defense of his legislation.
  • Rep. Justin Burr in North Carolina proposed protecting drivers who hit protesters from civil liability. It passed the House 67-48.
  • In Tennessee, State Sen. Bill Ketron and State Rep. Matthew Hill backed legislation to shield drivers who plow into protesters from civil suits. That was shortly after a driver did just that in Nashville during a Black Lives Matter protest.
  • In Texas, Rep. Pat Fallon wanted to legalize hitting protesters, full stop.
  • In Florida, State Senator George Gainer proposed civil immunity for drivers who hit protesters.
  • In Rhode Island, State Rep. Justin Price was behind another civil immunity push.

In most cases, defenders of these bills have stated that they would not apply to someone who intentionally rams a car into protesters, as Fields did. For example, drivers who fail to exercise “due care” would in theory not be shielded by Rhode Island’s legislation.

But as Gary Kavanagh writes in an excellent thread, these lawmakers were playing with fire:

All these men bear a portion of the blame for what happened to Heather Heyer — their bills fed an undercurrent of rage against people exercising their right to assemble. It was only a matter of time before an extremist like Fields acted out the violent fantasy these bills tacitly encourage — to kill and injure people with a car.

Bills to legalize hitting protesters with a motor vehicle gave a not-so-subtle wink and a nod to extremists with violent fantasies (including the leader of the Santa Fe police union, who posted this meme on Facebook).
Bills to legalize hitting protesters with a motor vehicle gave a not-so-subtle wink and a nod to extremists with violent fantasies (including the leader of the Santa Fe police union, who posted this meme on Facebook). Via Aaron Cantu
  • Guy Ross

    So just like how things are today, were twenty years ago or fifty years ago but we are ready to kill each other over a rate of 25% or 35%.

    I don’t think that’s the whole story and really shows how hollow the argument of the extreme right is.

  • Joe R.

    The rich who are the primary beneficiaries of low tax rates somehow managed to convince working slobs that low tax rates on the wealthy are good. Never mind that working stiffs never really got a tax cut out of the deal.

    Now it seems like low taxes are almost a religion. Anyone who talks about raising taxes is branded a communist or a socialist.

  • Red Monk

    Reported to who? I don’t agree with Al but he isn’t threatening anyone here. He is simply making a hypothetical statement that IF he was in a situation where he was in danger THEN he would consider using force to escape.

    And we all would. It just varies how afraid we would have to be and how much force we would be willing to use.

  • “Those voters” then appear to not understand that Capitalist health care is health care that the can increasingly not afford. It’s not the law that raised rates, it was the for-profit companies that do the insuring.

    We already have a partial national Socialist system. Whenever taxes are collected to maintain an institution that exists for the benefit of all who pay for it, that government system is Socialist by definition. Voting and the military come to mind, but also the social welfare system. If only we could pay in for health insurance what we now give to for-profit insurers so that their C-suite can be multi-millionaires to our own benefit instead. My annual “give” would be about $7200, including my share and my employers, just for a single person policy. How many Americans – about 320 million? Do that math, and tell me we can’t do better in getting people care with that.

  • Yes, and the military, any social service, the election system, all paid for by taxes given to a centralized organization for the benefit of those paying the taxes. Highways. Any public park or other institution. Amtrak.

  • Having a public mail system is a Constitutional right. It can’t legitimately be privatized in this country. Maybe to a nonprofit but certainly not to a for-profit that might deny service to someone who can’t pay.

  • “Let’s reduce taxes on the wealthy because that will create jobs (it hasn’t in 30 years).”

    It never has. The only thing that has ever created jobs is high taxes on those who might have the resources to create jobs to get tax breaks by doing so. Think post-WW2 for a recent version of that. True fiscal conservatism, too. We fought a war, we spent more money than we had? Now taxes have to pay for it. Democrats might be “tax-and-spend,” but Republicans have always been spend-and-spend. the only time this country cares much about the budget or the deficit or the debt ceiling is when Democrats are in charge of them. Otherwise, it’s the sky’s the limit.

  • Credit card INTEREST stopped being deductible. The biggest thing they could do to reform taxation for the Middle Class is allow everyone to deduct interest as being effectively a pass-through to anther entity that will pay the tax on it as income. That and raise wages. That two people can have two children, two good incomes, and still not have enough to live decently is unimaginable anywhere but the US.

  • If people making more than $127.2k can take benefits from the system, which they can, then they should pay into it accordingly. If those who are wealthy don’t get benefits despite paying into them, that’s fine with me. It’s actually NOT an “insurance scheme,” but OK with me if you have to pay for it (like any other insurance) but can only access the benefit if you qualify. You have home owners insurance, you pay but can’t collect unless something happens to your home. You have car insurance, you pay but don’t get unless you have an accident. You pay into social security and medicare, but if you have enough money when you retire to pay for your expenses and health care, then you don’t get. Works for me.

  • A little profit is OK – and Capitalists who took a reasonable profit did indeed help build this country. It’s only been the last 40 years that CEOs make hundreds of times what their lowest paid workers make, and only since Reagan has the burden to pay for services shifted from the wealthy, who between their own needs and the needs of their income production use more resources than any other class, and the Middle and working classes, who tend to pay as they go, survive on far less than the upper classes, and use much less of the resources and services.

    The wealthy just can’t consume enough fast enough to keep a consumer economy churning. A sustainable economy would be nice, but we’ve pretty much never come close to one (wartime being the only possible exception). The only way to keep the economy humming along is making sure those who do the consuming have the cash to do so. Higher wages is the only solution to that.

  • Which, according to you, should be an executed in the street without due process level offense.

  • Troll being the operative word.

  • Actually, the laws are to protect those drivers who accidentally hit people in the street to prevent lawsuits against them. Ot’s the only way they can be justified by those promoting them. They are not in any way intended to protect someone sitting in a car and deliberately running people over.

  • Dana Carpender

    I want to know if these men claim to be Christians.

  • Jerry Talbert

    It’s not legal to run over anybody.

  • bunsniff

    Ya, he is far left. So is Sherrod Brown and Lizzy warren.

  • bunsniff

    Wealthy people have the means to live anywhere in the world. They already pay far and away the most taxes and you want push them out? Who makes up their difference?

  • bunsniff

    Crony capitalism is horrible. We haven’t had honest capitalism in our lives. Too many regulations choke off small businesses and startups all to the joys of big business and big government. We’ve been living in a quasi economic fascist society for most of our lives.

  • Vinstar

    I want to know if these men are working for ISIS.

  • Vinstar

    They could be working for ISIS.

  • Vinstar

    There’s no difference between republicans and ISIS, both employ violence to enforce their brutal ideology.

  • Reading this during breakfast. I just lost my appetite.

  • bubbiesbub

    … but you seem to be an America hater.

  • bubbiesbub

    That is left wing thinking. Why do you think it’s OK to steal from one person and give it to another? I you took all the money from all the billionaires in America, it wouldn’t even make a dent in our national debt. Besides, they better prosperity for all. Stop your jealousy and try to see things clearly without emotion. Our welfare system is broken!? Personal responsibility has gone out the door and people like you want to perpetrate an entitlement society. [I ‘m not sure if you know this or not, but] The greatest joy is giving to others; no one feels joy paying taxes. Gratitude propagates giving. When have you seen a lifetime welfare recipient grateful for their check from the government? Your ideology is creating angry victims and unhappy people. People like you are ruining our country. [I’m not sure if you know this or not, but], conservatives are much happier than leftists. We give of ourselves to charities. Margaret Thatcher said it best: “Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money.” Look at what’s happening in Greece and Spain. Do you want this for our youth? I don’t. None of this will affect me because I’m old. I love America and care about our future. I think you hate America and want to change her. Without American capitalism, the world would be a dismal place. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but] We give more to disasters and emergencies in the world than any other country… but you want to change that. I just wasn’t sure if you knew this or not…

  • alan westerman

    tell them all thanks for getting trump elected.

  • NCSpacy

    Absolutely.

  • JOz_B

    Well said.

  • Shanta Kamath

    Those of you who live in the places that elected these barbarians really must run each and every one of them out of town on a rail as soon as you possibly can. I am completely serious. Recall these monsters. Now. Fast enough to make their toxin-filled heads spin.

  • Andrew

    So if I disagree with your politics it’s OK with you if I block your front door in the morning and stop you from leaving?

    If you’re standing on a public street, then it probably is OK, from a legal perspective, regardless of how you feel about my politics. But even if it’s not, I don’t get to kill you over it.

  • Andrew

    The difference is that those other drivers do not deliberately block my path. It’s just congestion from time to time.

    Those drivers are most certainly deliberately driving, and they’re well aware that there’s traffic behind them. They are deliberately blocking your path.

    That they are doing so for the purpose of driving rather than for the purpose of engaging in public protest seems to exempt them from your threats of murder.

    I manage to get through life without ever delaying others. Why can’t you?

    I hate to break it to you, but unless you stay at home all the time, you often delay other people. Any time you drive a car you delay every motorist and bus rider behind you, and I suspect, given what you’ve written, that you also routinely delay pedestrians and cyclists.

    Fortunately for you, they have no right to kill you for your having caused a delay.

  • Andrew

    A group of protesters assembling peacefully on a public street are not falsely imprisoning you. If they are breaking the law, call the police and ask to have them arrested. You don’t get to kill people who are delaying you, even if they’re breaking the law.

  • keenplanner

    They pay far less taxes here than most other civilized countries. Many don’t pay taxes at all, favoring investing in shell companies and off shore tax shelters.

  • Frank Kotter

    Ugh.

  • Guy Ross

    How are they ‘far left’? Are they calling on public takeovers of industry? An over 60% tax rate on capital gains and income?

  • They’re trying them immune from civil actions. So, theoretically they might get life in prison with no parole, being tried and convicted on criminal charges. But their assets are protected because the victim(s) are prohibited from suing them. Remember what happened to OJ? He was acquitted of the (criminal) murder charges, but he was found liable at the civil trial. These assholes are trying to take away the rights of victims, and/or their families, from filing civil lawsuits. That is crazy. It is crazy. IT’S FREAKING NUTS!

  • I want to know if these guys are real huma…oh, wait. Nope! I guess they aren’t.

  • Elmer Gantry

    A very specific problem with HB0668 codswallop legislation sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill is that he does not know the definition of many big words — in this case, the word “riot” — as defined by the Tennessee Code. The jejune Jonesborough representative is essentially desiring the enactment of government inspired reprisals directed at protesters walking in the street who will be injured, maimed, or killed by counter-protesters driving motor vehicles.

    The November 9, 2016 student protest in Nashville is well documented by “The Tennessean” and this publication describes these Broadway protesters defamed by Rep. Hill as consisting of approximately 100 local teenagers and Fisk University students (news photos suggest that these proetesters were mostly young African-American females) who walked on Broadway (with a metro police escort) to the protest the policies of then U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

    While these same Nashville protesters may have been “tumultuous” (loudly expressing their concerns), these “Not My President” student protesters were not reportedly engaged in any “violent conduct” (a specific element of the T.C.A 39-17-301 defining the word “riot”) as falsely asserted by the Rep. Hill.

    To be more specific, the Broadway student protestors were not engaged in activities that “damaged property, caused serious bodily injury to other persons, or substantially obstructed law enforcement or other governmental function”, and more to the point, these student protesers were reported as walking and working with the Nashville metro police escorts as to allow traffic to safely cross Broadway intersections along the entire protest route.

    And unlike the perpetually petulant and spoiled Rep. Matthew Hill, I also imagine that most (if not all) of these Broadway student protesters do not have parents who own radio stations from which they can freely disseminate their own redress of grievances with government. Rep. Matthew Hill’s filing of his mean-spirited HB0668 legislation appears to be racially motivated and would likely violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    Hill files anti-protest, anti-abortion bills
    NATHAN BAKER • UPDATED FEB 12, 2017 AT 5:14 PM
    http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Local/2017/02/12/Hill-files-anti-protest-anti-abortion-bills.html
    nbaker@johnsoncitypress.com
    http://bit.ly/2kEcprV

    Nashville students protest Donald Trump presidency
    Ariana Maia Sawyer and Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean
    Published 3:50 p.m. CT Nov. 9, 2016 | Updated 6:54 p.m. CT Nov. 9, 2016
    http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2016/11/09/nashville-students-protest-donald-trump-presidency/93560998/

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