From New York City to San Jose, California, Black Lives Matter protesters are facing injury and sometimes death at the hands of those who would use their vehicles as weapons.
A new report from USA Today found that between May 27 and July 6, 59 civilians rammed into protests with only 24 of those cases facing any kind of charges. Seven attacks came from police.
The motivation behind the rammings aren’t always clear-cut according to expert on extremism J.J. MacNab:
“There are groups that do want people to take their cars and drive them into Black Lives Matters protesters so that they won’t protest anymore. There’s an element of terrorism there. Is it all of them? No,” said J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. “I look at it as an anti-protester group of acts, some of which are white supremacist, some not.”
There have been at least 66 incidents of cars driving into protesters from May 27 to July 6, including 59 by civilians and seven by law enforcement, according to Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats. Weil began tracking the incidents as protests sprung up in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody.
MacNab researched the cases and actually found that at least 19 of the attacks were clearly malicious, while four were not. The remaining 36 were unclear, especially when drivers fear for their lives due more to racism than any real risk to their safety. Even when the case seems pretty clear cut, charges might not be forth coming, like this ramming attack in New York which resulted in a protester being dragged for a block, but no charges for the driver.
Videos of these ramming have become memes and spread widely on white supremacy sites and social media accounts with the drivers being rebranded as heroes to bigots across the internet, MacNab told USA Today.
These attacks recall the uptick in ramming that occurred just a few years ago and were motivated by white supremacist’s not-all-that-strange bedfellows, fundamentalist Islamic groups. The al-Qaeda publication Inspire praised ramming as “...a simple idea and there is not much involved in its preparation.” ISIS praised the tactic as a way for a jihadist to do their duty in its Rumiyah magazine in 2016. This led to the deadly 2016 attacks on crowds in Nice, France, Barcelona, Spain and on a Christmas market in Berlin.
Black Lives Matter protesters also faced ramming attacks when the movement first arose in 2016, as well as protesters standing against the Dakota Access pipeline. MacNab warned that this problem is not going away any time soon and protesters need to be cautious:
“I would be very careful in the middle of the street,” MacNab said. “There’s a significant amount of people who think that any protester hit in the street has it coming, and that’s a dangerous mindset.”
Protests do not seem intimidated by these repeated attacks and continue across the country and around the world. For those who support vehicle attacks: when you find yourself agreeing with ISIS tactics, take it as a wake up call to maybe reappraise your outlook.