A car driver unexpectedly accelerated into demonstrators in Bloomington, In., on Monday night, injuring two of them in the latest of a rash of vehicular attacks targeting protesters, the New York Times reports. Several hundred people marched through the college town, demanding the arrest of men who threatened a Black civil rights activist. Video footage showed a woman clinging to the car’s hood and a man clutching the driver’s door handle as the vehicle zoomed forward. Police searched for the driver on Tuesday. Dozens of similar incidents have occurred across the U.S. It is difficult to assess which were premeditated and which were prompted by rage when drivers were blocked by crowds. The tactic has previously been used by extremist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. “It is not just an extremist thing here, but there are social media circles online where people are sharing these and joking about them because they disagree with the protests and their methods,” said Ari Weil of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats of the University of Chicago. “Sharing memes and joking about running over people can lead to real danger.”
There have been at least 66 car attacks since George Floyd was killed, seven of them by law enforcement officers. That included two in New York City that Police Commissioner Dermot Shea defended because police vehicles were under attack. Prosecutors have brought charges in 24 cases, including hate crimes. The most high-profile example occurred in the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist rally when James Fields, Jr. killed Heather Heyer, a counterprotester. He was sentenced to life in prison. Some crashes at recent protests have also been fatal, including one in Seattle on Saturday. Supporters of far-right organizations — as well as an occasional government official or law enforcement officer — have been circulating memes and slogans online encouraging such attacks.