47. Vehicles as Weapons

By August 3, 2020 Uncategorized

Using a vehicle as an instrument of terror is nothing new. Over the last decade, extremists proclaiming affiliation with ISIS and other terrorist groups have used trucks and cars to murder pedestrians in London, Barcelona, Nice, Berlin, New York…the list goes on. Recently, however, the United States has seen a new and frightening development with vehicular assaults. These attacks are not random. The targets are protesters using highways and streets to exercise their First Amendment rights, to demand justice, and to call for the reform of policing and other systemically racist institutions. Some of the attacks have been carried out by people affiliated with right-wing hate groups, some by people with no known affiliation, and still others have involved the police themselves. In this episode, Sarah talks with Ari Weil, a University of Chicago Ph.D. student researching vehicular attacks, about this terrifying trend. We also hear from Robert Foster, who was at a protest in Austin, Texas, where a confrontation between a marcher and a driver turned fatal.

You can find the full transcript of this episode here.

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Follow Ari on Twitter @AriWeil

Read more about Ari Weil’s research into right-wing vehicular attacks. (NBC News) 

Ari Weil’s interview with Vox.com about the “far right ecosystem online” that’s encouraging vehicular attacks and congratulating the people who carry them out. 

Vehicular Attacks Rise as Extremists Target Protestors. (NPR)

Police officers in SUVs rammed protestors and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initially defended the cops. (New York Times)

The states that introduced bills in 2017 to protect drivers who run over protestors. (CNN)

This episode was produced by Sarah Goodyear and edited by Ali Lemer. Our music is by Nathaniel Goodyear. Our logo is by Dani Finkel of Crucial D Design.

Find us on Twitter: @TheWarOnCars, Aaron Naparstek @Naparstek, Doug Gordon @BrooklynSpoke, Sarah Goodyear @buttermilk1

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One Comment

  • Bob says:

    I enjoy the show as a Detroit city biker. Hate the times I have to actually drive a vehicle but Detroit is not nearly as dense as New York or Chicago. I love Detroit and have lived here my whole life – raised family in the burbs. Then we moved back to the city once our girls cleared college.
    Trying to understand protesters taking over any street at any time they want. If I walk down the middle of Jefferson, the police well either get me out of the street or arrest me.
    Because it is illegal to do that. Car lanes are for cars, not people. Even if I am carrying a BLM sign. If 10 friends join me, it is illegal. No matter how many people are in the procession, it is illegal. I would need to get authorization and have roads blocked. So at what point does it change over from illegal to ok? That’s what I am struggling with. Otherwise, I could park my car in blocking any driveway, put a protest sign on it and no one can do anything about it.
    Understand that I agree, using your car as a weapon except for when you are endangered, is also illegal. I am really trying to understand how anybody can shut down a road whenever they want. Before May of 2020 this had always been illegal.
    FYI – In July I was driving my wife home from her job as a nurse at Henry Ford Hospital. About 50 young people used cars to block East Grand Blvd and Jefferson. They setup a basketball net and partied in the intersection. Luckily, I was able to backup quickly and go and go down a side street before more “protestors” block everyone in from behind. I saw no point in that protest, other than to turn a lot of people against their cause.
    Sorry, diverged there. So help me understand who can just take over a street. What are the parameters? Thank!