Extremists Targeting Protestors with Vehicle Attacks

There have been at least 50 vehicle-ramming incidents since late May when protests erupted across the country after George Floyd’s in-custody death.

Extremists Targeting Protestors with Vehicle Attacks

Vehicles are increasingly being used by right-wing extremists as weapons to run down non-violent protestors demonstrating against police misconduct.

There have been at least 50 vehicle-ramming incidents since late May when protests erupted across the country after George Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis, reports NPR.  Eighteen of the attacks have been categorized as deliberate, while two dozen more are still being investigated or the motive isn’t clear, according to a study from the University of Chicago. Four have been classified as accidental.

Currently, 20 people have been arrested in these incidents, including the state leader of Virginia’s Ku Klux Klan.

Civil rights advocates believe the attacks are a deliberate tactic used by white supremacists.

The previous rash of vehicle rammings started five years ago. The most high profile attack happened in 2017. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 35 others were injured when a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi accelerated his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

The current spate of vehicle rammings, most of which have been caught on video, follow similar patterns, where protestors are walking peacefully and then a car or truck barrels towards them. The crowd flees and the driver either speeds off or is surrounded by the protestors, reports NPR.

The use of vehicles as tools of destruction has become one of the top security concerns for public spaces. Extremist groups including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda have over the years called on their followers to use trucks to attack crowds in Europe. One such attack occurred in 2016 when a truck plowed into Bastille Day vacationers in Nice, France, killing 86 people.

Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago’s Chicago Project on Security and Threats estimates that the number of vehicle attacks in the U.S. in this current rash has actually been undercounted because many of the incidents have not been reported.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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4 responses to “Extremists Targeting Protestors with Vehicle Attacks”

  1. Jason Reel says:

    I wonder how many of these incidents were not intentional acts of violence, but people seeing motorists being dragged out of their vehicles and beaten and not wanting that to happen to them when rioters are swarming their vehicle. The headline doesn’t seem to match the article.

  2. James Bolling says:

    I am wondering the exact same thing as Jason. I am wondering how many were acts of self defense to prevent being assaulted by unlawful violent mobs. It still would be classified in crime reporting as an assault, but would be a justified action and cleared as self defense.

  3. Annie Kay says:

    I would agree with both of the comments above. The headline seems presumptive and provocative in light of the information in the article. All 18 ‘deliberate’ incidents were extremists? None were self-defense? Still 24 or more are under investigation… and not all the protests were peaceful.

  4. NPR is not accurate when reporting on this subject. In one of the case that occurred in Louisville KY, NPR labeled the driver as a Right Wing Extremist targeting peaceful protesters. What really happened which police investigated, is she was surrounded by protesters who began to reach into her car. They began assaulting her, and pulling her hair. One protester pulled out gun at which time the victim fled, striking a man in her escape path. The protesters pursued her and, when she stopped for a red light, another protester approached her car, racked a handgun and pointed it at her. NPR got this story 180 degrees wrong, So how many other stories have they botched? So I’m not sure if NPR has any credibility at all.

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