Watch out folks!
Last month, in a new wave of antidemocratic legislation, the governor of Florida signed into law a bill that “grants civil immunity to people who decide to drive their cars into protesters who are blocking a road.” Similarly, this year, an Oklahoma measure immunizes any drivers from criminal and civil charges if they “unintentionally” injure someone while “fleeing from a riot” and even offers this handy excuse to drivers: if they hold “a reasonable belief that they are in danger” they will be let off the hook. And similar legislation is currently pending in several more states.
This protestor-ramming appears to be the latest violent tactic of the angry avengers on the right in the wake of George Floyd’s murder: “more than 100 incidents of hostile drivers ramming into activists have been documented.” In response, Gov. Ron DeSantis as well as Republican leaders in Florida, Oklahoma and other states, have decided to protect the rammers. So be careful exercising your First Amendment right to protest in the streets from Miami to Jacksonville, as Floridians can now mow you down with their cars and then carry on with their day.
Imagine the message these laws send to those people who are already radicalized and have a dangerous insurrectionist mindset. Doesn’t this embolden them to let loose on a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest or a crowd filled with imaginary anti-fascists, claiming they felt endangered? And how is this not 24/7 news? Thanks to the MAGA Party media and Steve Bannon “flooding the zone with sh*t” and churning out constant shiny objects for us to chase, we keep moving on. But from this, we can’t.
While many news outlets are covering the legislation as business-as-usual, Vanity Fair appropriately calls it out for what it is:
In a statement, Micah Kubic, the executive director of ACLU Florida, said, "To be clear, the goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice." Of DeSantis and state lawmakers, Dream Defenders’ Nailah Summers told NPR: "They should be ashamed of themselves. Black lives matter and so do our constitutional rights."
These bills are outrageous but they show a pattern. We have learned over the past five years that, yes, it can happen here. And now that it is happening, we must remain vigilant. Four years ago Heather Heyer was killed at an anti-racism rally by an angry motorist who rammed his car through a crowd. The January 6 insurrection was a clear signal that the far right accepts violence as a means to address issues they don’t like, real or invented. Running over peaceful protestors with immunity is next on their agenda. Beyond that is unimaginable. The time to scream is now, not when that car is hurtling toward you …
Featured image by Matt Napo on Unsplash
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