(New York, N.Y.) – Recent demonstrations across the U.S. have been marred by at least 19 cases of individuals allegedly using vehicles as weapons to drive into crowds, according to witnesses and police. In at least eight of these cases, drivers face charges over what prosecutors have claimed to be deliberate acts. In a Virginia court filing, the Commonwealth alleges a driver who hit a demonstrator’s bicycle and threatened the protesting crowd nearby with his truck told police he was a high-ranking official of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Messages on social media platforms also seem to encourage these attacks, frequently using phrases such as “all lives splatter” or “run them over.” Some social media users have stated that while they have no intention of endorsing any attacks, they feel protesters do not possess the right to hamper drivers and spread messages endorsing running over protesters inconveniencing their daily routines. Josh Lipowsky, a senior research analyst for the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), believes the messaging is jeopardous regardless of the intent behind a post. “Putting this out there into the public sphere — we do not know who is going to see that and take it to heart,” he told the Washington Post.
The use of vehicular attacks are not a new phenomenon. At the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a white supremacist rammed his vehicle into a group of protesters, killing one. The assailant, James Alex Fields, allegedly marched with the white nationalist, neo-Nazi group Vanguard America during the rally and carried a shield with the group’s logo.
CEP has documented at least 50 vehicular attacks by terrorists since 2006, collectively resulting in the deaths of at least 197 people and the injury of at least 1,101 others. Terrorists have carried out car-ramming attacks for more than a decade, in locations ranging from North Carolina to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Quebec, Dijon, Nantes, the West Bank, Graz, and Xinjiang. In some cases, assailants have used gas canisters or other explosives to supplement the potential damage from car-ramming attacks. In others, extremists have launched deadly or harmful vehicular attacks coupled with low-sophistication tactics like stabbing passersby.
To read CEP’s Vehicles as Weapons of Terror resource, please click here.