As folks have probably already heard, a caravan of Trump supporters in pickup trucks surrounded a Biden campaign bus on IH 35 last Friday. They were evidently trying to force the bus to stop completely, but only succeeded in slowing it down to about 20 miles per hour. Media reports said that people on the bus called the cops and the cops showed up, but were outnumbered by the number of vehicles in the Trump caravan. No one was arrested. Now, the FBI is investigating the incident, which is very appropriate.
Let’s imagine an alternative scenario, which did not happen and shows no sign of happening, but might also help illustrate why so many people protest the treatment of African Americans by police. In this alternative scenario, a group of people, mostly African Americans, gathers along the shoulder of IH 35 between San Antonio and Austin. They fly flags for their cause on their vehicles. It does not seem far fetched to say this group might have attracted some police attention just for lining up along the roadside.
Suppose though that the police did not show up for that, and that the group of largely African Americans pulled their vehicles onto the freeway and surrounded a bus of supporters of a competing cause — surrounded them on all sides and began driving very slowly. Let’s say they even sideswiped one vehicle riding with the bus, as actually happened with the Biden bus. Do we really think that incident would have ended with no arrests? [Here’s one of the better videos of the incident followed by Trump talking about it later.]
The Trump backers on the highway Friday endangered not only those on the Biden bus and the accompanying cars, but anyone who happened to be riding on IH 35 at that time. This is criminal and should be treated as such. It’s good that the FBI is investigating, but this should serve as a warning to law enforcement officials throughout Texas — and throughout the country — that voter intimidation and violence is extremely possible on election day. All police agencies in Texas, and around the country, have a responsibility to be ready tomorrow to ensure that everyone can vote without intimidation or violence.
Also, let’s make it clear. The encouragement of violence is coming from the President himself and from at least one member of his family. At the first debate, Trump called on the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” This, by the way, came during a segment when he declined to denounce white supremacy. At the same debate he also called for his supporters to show up at polling places.
A few hours before the highway incident, Donald Trump Jr. posted a video online in which he told Trump supporters, “It’d be great if you guys all get together … and give Kamala Harris a nice Trump Train welcome. Get out there, have some fun, enjoy it.” The ambush of the Biden bus occurred a few hours later. Harris was in Texas that day, but not on the bus.
Later his Dad tweeted about the caravan that harassed the Biden bus: “In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong. Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!”
These semi-veiled calls for intimidation tactics from Trump and Junior — along with the predictable obedient response from Trump backers — should be all the warning that Texas law enforcement agencies need to be ready for trouble on election day, and afterward. There is no excuse for being caught off guard or for being shocked if there is voter intimidation and/or election day violence.
And, this should go without saying, but even though many people on the left have been very critical of the police, and sometimes lumped all of them together for criticism, the police still have the duty to protect all citizens and the rights of all citizens to vote. Trying to intimidate people while voting is against the law and goes against fundamental American principles. This is a principle that has been violated before, for instance in elections after the Civil War in which freed slaves were allowed to vote and 100 years later when African Americans and Mexican Americans tried to exercise their still denied voting rights.
Officials at the Austin Police Department announced earlier that they plan a full mobilization for election day. Hopefully that means they are prepared for election day trouble from Trump backers and not just for demonstrations by left wing activists.
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