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At least 66 vehicle attacks have been reported since May protests began

At least 66 vehicle attacks have been reported since May protests began
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There have been at least 66 incidents of cars driving into U.S. protesters since May 27, according to Ari Weil, terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago's Project on Security and Threats.

Weil told The New York Times and USA Today that of those 66 vehicle-ramming attacks, 59 involved vehicles driven by civilians and seven by law enforcement as the nation has seen numerous demonstrations since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. 

At least two of those attacks have led to deaths, in Bakersfield, Calif., and in Seattle. Weil said 24 vehicle-ramming attacks from civilian drivers have led to criminal charges.

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Late last month, the New York Police Department commissioner defended two officers who drove into protesters in May, saying they had not violated use-of-force policies.

The tactic of using vehicles against crowds has been popular among supporters of terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda. That type of attack also led to the fatality in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when a white nationalist supporter plowed his vehicle into a crowd of counterdemonstrators. 

Internet memes about running over protesters have also become more popular since the protests began. 

“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,” Weil told the Times. “Sharing memes and joking about running over people can lead to real danger.”

Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who researches counterterrorism and Middle East security, told USA Today that the tactic has "become something of a meme in white supremacy circles.”

"There’ll be a picture of a car driving into a crowd, and then there will be a humorous remark about it. It’s definitely part of the discourse," Byman said.  

"They’re doing a lot of kidding-not-kidding sort of humor ... which is the modern white supremacist world,” he added.