I’ve written for many years about the systemic racism of American transit policies; from disastrous “Urban Renewal” projects using highway construction that “balkanize” cities and destroy black neighborhoods, to the racial disparity in pedestrian deaths and disgusting history of jaywalking laws.
[Car manufacturers] staged safety campaigns in which actors dressed in 19th-century garb, or as clowns, were hired to cross the street illegally, signifying that the practice was outdated and foolish. In a 1924 New York safety campaign, a clown was marched in front of a slow-moving Model T and rammed repeatedly.
Perhaps Benjamin Bunn, a former Green Beret who served from 2000 to 2016 and deployed in support of the Global War on Terror to both Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Baltic Region… put it best:
People are most vulnerable during travel.
The modern countermeasures for such domestic security threats should be pretty obvious to anyone engineering human-centric networks, as this before/after view illustrates:
A new article tries to bring this all to light again, given the recent spate of “pedestrian kill bills”, yet it makes an awful error:
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.
There was ample evidence by 2016 if not earlier that “run them over you won’t be convicted” was a coordinated hate campaign on social media by white nationalists.
If anything, ISIS likely took the ideas from American domestic terrorists (although arguably there were foreign accounts stoking the message).
In January 2016, a police sergeant in St. Paul, Minnesota, was suspended after allegedly posting a comment on an article about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, instructing drivers: “Run them over. Keep traffic flowing and don’t slow down for any of these idiots who try and block the street.”
This February, Troy Baker, president of the police union in Santa Fe, New Mexico, shared an image from the “Prepare to Take America Back” Facebook page, a right-wing meme factory with links to conspiracy theories. “All lives splatter: Nobody cares about your protest,” it reads over an image of a jeep plowing through a crowd.
Way back in 2013 the problem was described in terms of authorized use and operator error.
Vehicles can do great damage, yet when people drive aggressively or vengefully, the destruction is often dismissed as “an accident.”
Speaking of 2013, a car plowed through protestors a year earlier at the University of California Santa Cruz.
He revved his engine, but the crowd briefly stopped him from entering. The driver then revved his engine again and drove through the crowd of demonstrators at the High Street entrance, striking several people and a bike. […] Samson [who was a passenger in the car] said they intend to press charges against those in the crowd. […] The demonstration had been peaceful until the incident with the motorist.
The driver of the car who revved his engine, paused, revved again and then tried to run over a crowd of protestors intended to press charges against his victims?
A very different tone that same year can be found in Cardiff, Wales after a Taxi driver hit eight pedestrians and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Sentencing Rehman, the judge said: “It was holy unjust behaviour – intolerable behaviour in a civilised society. To use a motor vehicle as a weapon is a an extremely serious crime.”
Back to a completely opposite perspective, here’s a story from a year before that in Brazil, where police said a car that drove over 12 people during a protest was the fault of the protestors because… they didn’t have a protest license.
De acordo com o delegado, o direito à livre expressão dos manifestantes não podia impedir o direito de ir e vir de pedestres e motoristas. “Aqui não é a Líbia. Aqui tem toda a liberdade para fazer manifestação, desde que avisem as autoridades. Faz a tua manifestação, mas não impede o fluxo de automóveis. Se tu impedes, dá confusão, dá baderna, dá acidente. Fica o alerta”, afirmou.
Roughly translated this is “free expression and demonstration can’t be in the way of the right of car mobility since Brazil is not Libya — people are free to demonstrate as long as they warn authorities and do not prevent car flow”.
But let’s not stop there. In 2009 videos were posted to the Internet from Iran, which showed police vehicles plowing into demonstrators.
In the video — shot Sunday, according to the posting on the Web site YouTube — green-and-white police trucks rush into crowds of protesters in the capital, Tehran. Demonstrators scatter, but one truck drives into a crowd trapped in a narrow street with a wall on one side and parked cars on the other.
Speaking of 2009, eight people were killed in the Netherlands when a car was intentionally driven into a parade in a failed attempt to kill the Dutch royal family.
And three years before that a philosophy/psychology graduate of the University of North Carolina drove a car through crowds of students, injuring almost nobody. Allegedly it was his attempt to “avenge deaths or murders of Muslims“… before calling police to turn himself in.
There are so many examples, I’m unfortunately leaving out many important ones. There’s a very, very important reason why:
Manslaughter with a weapon statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, from 1996 to 2016, show the number of offenses with firearms and knives, but everything else falls under a category called “other.” There is no readily available breakdown of the number of times that prosecutors said a car was used as a weapon.
Let’s say that again, when we look at weapon statistics there’s NO BREAKDOWN OF TIMES A CAR WAS USED AS A WEAPON.
This seems particularly odd since, as the grieving mother of a murdered daughter explained, use of cars as weapons to kill pedestrians tends to be pretty obvious:
“He ran over my daughter three times,” she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “You’re not going to tell me the car’s not a weapon. He used it as a weapon. That’s all there is to it.”
And at least some judges seem to agree with her, making some obvious points of their own:
Just as an automobile’s primary purpose is for transportation, the primary purpose of a steak knife or baseball bat is for use as cutlery or sporting equipment. Yet no one could reasonably dispute that those items are also ‘commonly understood’ as ‘instrument[s] for combat against another person’ when used as such.
And on that note, you would think that the low frequency high impact of cars as weapons also would gather more attention from anyone trying to protect Americans from harm.
Vehicular attacks have caused 45 percent of all injuries and 37 percent of all deaths in Islamism-inspired plots since January 2014
So please allow me instead of trying to capture every incident to just skip back all the way to news from 1977 in Plains, Georgia — a white man drove his Jaguar XKE at 50 mph through a Klan “anti-Carter” rally sending 19 people already wearing white sheets to the hospital.
The NYT reported on motive.
Sheriff Howard said at a news conference that Mr. Cochran apparently stopped at the Klan rally last night out of curiosity but “didn’t like what was being said” by the speakers. […] Mr. Cochran said “he had a lot of black friends and he was going to get even with Wilkinson for what he was saying about the blacks,” the sheriff said.
He had black friends and wanted to get even sounds very…wrong. I expect the driver to say he did it to fight racism, and not to say “some of my friends are black”.
Ok, I know what you’re probably thinking here. Use of cars as weapon go back as far as cars themselves go in history. But the 1977 incident, let alone other countries, seems to show the risk is to everyone, not linked to any one race.
Here’s the problem with that “race blind” argument to risk from cars in America. Given the wild and illogical fears being spread about AntiFa, wouldn’t we then see bills being written to criminalize use of cars as weapons against the KKK?
Kill bills are basically handing AntiFa the keys to drive cars through crowds of Nazis. Seems backwards for fascists to be giving anti-fascists license to a weapon, no?
Or as the Blues Brothers movie illustrated the concept back in 1980 (posted to YouTube in 2011):
A comment on that video follows it with this insight:
I’m all for free speech…but the free speech of a revved-up Dodge former cop car sounds even better.
Despite the movie reference, currently the belief is that no white nationalist crowds will be impacted by threat of cars (similar to how white crowds in America are statistically less subject to any police brutality).
Fundamentally (no pun intended) racist whites believe a blanket authorized use of force won’t put whites at any greater risk because blacks can’t target whites with violence in the same way that whites can target blacks (while at the same time claiming that authorization is required because blacks target whites with violence).
Indeed, we know that while the majority of pedestrian deaths in America are blacks, and that jaywalking laws are historically racist, so too the new pedestrian kill bills target non-whites — these laws essentially criminalize being black.
So here’s the real talk. International pressure has been mounting on American systemic white insecurity groups to stop killing black people with police brutality.
Police killings of Black Americans amount to crimes against humanity, international inquiry finds.
As a result, white insecurity surely realizes their racist strategy of police shootings may be over, and thus laws hastily are being pushed with new ways to oppress and terrorize black people en masse with systemic bias in transit and healthcare instead.
There are more than 60% more Black pedestrian fatalities than White, yet Black residents are more than five times more likely to depend on public transportation to access vital services and opportunities.
Kill Bills in America serve no purpose other than to remove protection against known domestic terror threats.