Commentary: A Scary Mindset Developing Toward Protesters

A recent protest in Arizona

Back in February, I covered the protest of the death of Michael Barrera in Woodland.  The protest went from a vigil to a march, and dozens of protesters took to the streets, eventually blocking an intersection on Main Street.

A scary moment occurred as the protesters were confronted with a vehicle that grew impatient at the blockage and eventually forced its way through, nearly hitting protesters.  The driver is fortunate that our video didn’t reveal his license plate.

A Facebook friend caught my attention when he posted from the Conservative Tribune an article with a video that appears to be out of Brazil.  It shows a group of people protesting on the highway, a car backs up when stopped, puts the car in drive and floors it through the protesters, running over several including one that appeared to be severely injured – they didn’t move.

The car appears to continue driving, exiting the video with 30 seconds remaining and not returning.

What is appalling are the comments:

“Zero sympathy.”

“This is great!”

“Maybe they will not block roadways again! LMAO”

“If more did that stupid people might think twice before standing in the middle of the road”

“Sorry no sympathy for these asshats who block the road and disrupt other people’s lives because they feel it is their right to do so. Block a road and risk your life of being run over. Can’t fix stupid!”

Those are just some of the many comments that justified potentially killing or seriously injuring a protester because they inconvenienced someone by protesting and blocking the road.

When I pointed out that the driver of a vehicle committed crimes – I was called a number of names.  But most importantly, the lack of understanding of the law in addition to the lack of empathy is alarming.

One person asked, “Who exactly committed a criminal act and precisely what criminal did he commit?”

From what I saw, you have at the very least some form of assault with a deadly weapon (a car in this case), potentially attempted murder, and hit and run (causing injury).

When I point this out, one of them argues, “If you injured someone while they are in the process of committing a crime, you are not at fault.”

There are of course provisions in the law that allow for self-defense.  They of course very from state to state.  But using California’s self-defense laws as a guide, we see that their high hurdle is clearly not met here.

First, the defendant has to reasonably (reasonable person standard) believe that they were in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury.  Second, they must reasonably believe that the immediate use of force is necessary to defend against that danger.

Finally, the defendant must use no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

In the video, it is questionable at best as to whether the first two planks of this would apply.   The car drove onto the shoulder of the highway to get in front of the line of cars stopped by the protest.  The car then drove up to the protesters, backed up to gain momentum and then rammed them.

But this case falls under the auspices of another problem – “A person does not have the right to self-defense if he or she provokes a fight or quarrel with the intent to create an excuse to use force.”  In this case, the driver triggered the confrontation, rather than defending himself from a given confrontation.

The other problem he has is that he fails to meet the burden of the third plank by using overwhelmingly disproportionate force.

Bottom line, this is not self-defense and, under the law, a car does not have the right to intentionally hit a person just because they are blocking the road.

Misconceptions about the law are one thing, but the level of hostility toward people who are protesting is quite disturbing.  Even when it is clear that someone may be critically injured, if not dead, the commenters were relentless in defending the driver’s actions – as well as in many cases asserting they would do the same themselves.

While I find it interesting that the right has claimed the high ground on first amendment speech issues with Milo and now Ann Coulter, this little episode demonstrates that, in the minds of the right, any speech that creates a mere inconvenience is immediately dismissed with violence fully sanctioned.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith O

    As protesters get more aggressive it’s just natural that it will cause more agrressive actions by those affected by their actions.

    While I find it interesting that the right has claimed the high ground on first amendment speech issues between Milo and now Ann Coulter, this little episode demonstrates that in the minds of the right, any speech that creates a mere inconvenience is immediately dismissed with violence fully sanctioned.

    Apples to oranges.  Nice attempt at twisting the issue.  Milo, Coulter and many other conservative speakers weren’t blocking an intersection, a bridge or causing anyone to be inconvenienced, their planned and sanctioned free speach was shut down by leftist fascists and left leaning campuses.  They were not breaking the law.

        1. David Greenwald

          You object to the means of speech. What you seem to be missing is that people who don’t like Milo or Coulter object to their means of speech as well.   You’ve simply determined in your mind that some means are acceptable and others are not.  Hence my comment that this is a distinction without a difference.

        2. Keith O

          No, it’s not protected free speech to illegally block roads and other transportation venues.  What Milo, Coulter and others were denied was actually their legal free speech rights.

  2. Tia Will

    As protesters get more aggressive it’s just natural that it will cause more agrressive actions by those affected by their actions.”

    Two thoughts on your comments.

    Protesters walking along a road are inconvenient, but not aggressive. This point was made by the protesters on campus who were pepper sprayed. Yes, blocking the path was inconvenient to the officers who wanted to use that route. However, it was clearly not aggressive and yet it was met with aggression. That is the same situation here where people peacefully walking are considered “aggressive” simply because of their political affiliation.

    It was and has been a consistent strategy of the GOP since the beginning of the 2016 election cycle to advocate for violence. Candidate Trump did this multiple times at rally’s inciting his supporters to physically attack heckler’s in the crowd. Ann Coulter quite recently made the statement that she “would like to see more violence from the right”. I state GOP instead of 45 or alt right specifically because I have yet to hear any member of the GOP disavow these calls for right wing violence.

        1. Howard P

          Eric… you have to acknowledge that ‘snopes’ is an uber-left-wing, socialist, communist, ISIS, alt-right, neo-nazi, endeavor…

          Good reference!

          Because Snopes is none-of-the-above (except being a great debunking tool)… when I get e-mails from extended family members about how ‘flashing your headlights will get you killed by gang members’, etc., I have Snopes bookmarked.  Have never seen any hint of an “editorial bias”.  Except perhaps, facts.  I have zero problem with the latter bias…

        2. Keith O

          To Eric (I tend to ignore the other responder),

          yes seriously.  It’s in the democrat operative’s own words and in fact two of the culprits caught on tape had to resign.

    1. Keith O

      Protesters walking along a road are inconvenient, but not aggressive. 

      I like how you word this.  In many cases they aren’t just “walking along the road”, they are purposely blocking the roads, bridges, freeways and intersections.

      1. David Greenwald

        If you watch the video in this incident, the protesters are blocking the road, but there is probably a 20 to 50 foot buffer between them and the cars until the one car goes on the shoulder and creates the confrontation.

        1. Keith O

          Not necessarily talking about just this incident but the many incidents where roads, bridges, intersections etc. have been illegally blocked by protesters.

        2. David Greenwald

          I don’t have a problem per se with blocking roads.  If they are becoming aggressive and damaging vehicles or attacking people, that changes the scenario.

        3. Keith O

          That’s you, and I think that’s because it’s mostly liberal protesters who revert to blocking roads, but others do have a problem with it.

  3. Alan Miller

    I wrote a detailed opinion piece in the Enterprise in the weeks following the Pepper Spraying.  I defended the protesters and condemned the actions of the Campus Police and the decisions of the Katehi administration that day.  I am a believer in nonviolent action and conflict resolution as powerful means, as usually the least harmful and most effective means.

    However, I agree with KiethO on this.  Blocking traffic is not necessarily non-violent.  And it’s just kind of stupid.  Running out onto a freeway to block it is absolutely not a nonviolent action, as it can cause a serious accident.

    Blocking a railway is both stupid and likely to get one killed.  If they were blocking a munitions train or even an oil train it would have at least made sense, but all they did was block the tracks to get attention.  The protestors in San Francisco who blocked Caltrain are whining because they may be prosecuted for blocking interstate transportation.  As they should.  Why don’t protestors take responsibility for their actions these days?

    Blocking a road is nothing like blocking the cops on the Quad.  The cops were only trying to “get to the other side” of protestors.  They were not trying to get somewhere else in squad cars and then blocked by protestors.

    Anyone purposefully trying to kill a protestor in the road with their car is committing a crime, even if the act of being in the road is stupid.  If you are hit by accident, as a protestor was in Oakland recently, that’s a different story and totally on the person who chose to walk on the freeway.

    As an aside, about 30 years ago I had my first professional job out of college, our company doing field work at Aerojet.  At the gate one day I encountered a picket line on the first day of a strike that no one had told me about.  I told the protestors I had to go to work inside, didn’t work for Aerojet, and wasn’t involved.  As I started moving forward, picketers jumped in front of my company truck.

    I kept inching forward as I didn’t know anything about unions or strikes at age 23, and I was just trying to drive forward on the road to get to work, but these [edited] were pushing on the company truck.  After it was clear they weren’t moving, I turned around and used another entrance.   When I got back to the office later that day, it had become a huge incident with Aerojet, Union and my company managers all involved.  The strikers claimed I was trying to run people over!

    1. David Greenwald

      But you miss the point – the point of my piece wasn’t whether the protesters were acting appropriately or inappropriately, it was the overwhelming sentiment that the proper way to handle the inconvenience was to run them over.

    2. Howard P

      Alan, not to be picky, but…

      Running out onto a freeway to block it is absolutely not a nonviolent action, as it can cause a serious accident.

      That’s not an “accident”… might be a “crash”, might be “suicide by MV”, but definitely not an “accident”… deliberate acts (including deliberately being impaired or/or stupid) very seldom result in “accidents”… they are crashes, stupids, acting-outs, but not accidents…

      But completely agree with the rest… the “accident” thing is a ‘pet-peeve’ [and sometimes, my pet peeves the heck out of me!  And in the backyard, or when out on a walk, she doesn’t have ‘accidents’… they are defecations…]

      Have a great evening, Alan…

  4. Jim Hoch

    Recently in NJ there was a well publicized case of the Governors’ staff blocking traffic to “send a message” to a local mayor. Two staff received prison sentences of 18 months each for their part.

    Blocking traffic is not “speech” it is “holding people hostage” and of course nobody likes to be held hostage.

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