A summons was issued last week for a judge in Fayetteville, North Carolina, requesting he appear in court in his own county on an assault with a deadly weapon charge after he was allegedly caught on camera almost striking Black Lives Matters protesters with his SUV earlier this month.
Judge John M. Tyson will be served with summons to appear in Cumberland County court after one of the protesters, Myah Warren, said she was nearly run over by the judge in his state-owned SUV while protesting. From the Fayetteville Observer:
Warren said a detective from the Fayetteville Police Department contacted her Thursday about an investigation into the incident during the protest. The detective told her the investigation was over, and that after reviewing video footage taken of the Market House area she had a reason to seek the charges.
A Fayetteville Police Department spokesman said earlier this week that an incident regarding a pedestrian almost being hit was assigned to an aggravated assault detective.
Warren said in an earlier interview that she and another protester had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck by a vehicle she said was driven by Tyson.
Mario Benavente, who was one of the protesters, has said he saw two other protesters nearly get hit by an SUV. He said he recognized Tyson as the driver of the vehicle.
At the time of the incident someone called 911 and told the dispatcher that protesters were blocking the street and surrounding his vehicle. While the Observer does not name the 911 caller, a Washington Post report says it was Tyson who made the call. Either way, a 12-minute video of the incident posted by the Post and provided by the city does not show Tyson’s vehicle surrounded by angry protesters. What it does show is Tyson’s vehicle actually looping back around to the protests after an initial pass and driving in a lane closed to traffic and allegedly attempting to plow into protesters:
The city released a 12-minute video of the incident Friday, which shows the SUV that Tyson allegedly drove cruising along the downtown area. Almost 10 minutes later, the same vehicle is seen driving in a closed-to-traffic inner lane painted “Black Lives Do Matter.” The vehicle made a quick stop in the lane before getting back in open traffic lanes.
It’s unclear how close the SUV was to Warren or other protesters.
Warren alleges that Tyson drove around the area once in his state-owned vehicle when no one was in his way. The second time, she said, he sped up and tried to hit the group but he ended up jumping the curb.
Dispatch calls obtained by the Observer revealed that Tyson called to report that there were people in the street blocking traffic and that they were coming around his car. Video released by the city doesn’t show protesters gathering near Tyson’s vehicle.
I mean, who are you going to believe? The word of a judge, who rejected race as a motivation in a senseless shooting of a Black man by a white man in 2016, or your own eyes?
Warren gave a statement to a magistrate after the incident and was told she couldn’t press charges. That changed after police reviewed the video. Other participants at the weekly demonstration, which drew 15 people, corroborated her story, with one even saying he recognized the judge behind the wheel. Lawyers for Tyson are not commenting on the case at this time.
Fayetteville is a center for Black Lives Matter protests as George Floyd was native to the city. His funeral in Fayetteville last year drew large crowds and sparked protests around the country as well as internationally.
It’s honestly impressive that the judge is facing any charges at all, as protesters are routinely threatened by drivers plowing into their ranks. In fact, quite the opposite is the norm as those drivers are rarely charged.
Several states have even sought to make it legal for cars to hit pedestrians who are engaged in protests, and even protect such drivers from civil liability. “Anti-riot” bills like the one recently passed in Florida, severally curtail freedom of speech rights and deliver harsh penalties for those who engage in protests, despite 96 percent of BLM protests remaining peaceful with no property damage, as the New York Times reported last month:
Republican legislators in Oklahoma and Iowa have passed bills granting immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters in public streets.
A Republican proposal in Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from holding state employment, including elected office. A Minnesota bill would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans, unemployment benefits or housing assistance.
And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed sweeping legislation this week that toughened existing laws governing public disorder and created a harsh new level of infractions — a bill he’s called “the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”
If a judge can’t follow something like the simple traffic laws already on the books to keep people engaging in free speech safe, such “anti-riot” laws seem like a recipe for disaster.