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Two more car ramming attacks target Black Lives Matter protests

Violent incidents in New York and Indiana follow a deadly car ramming in Seattle – and other vehicular attacks at recent protests

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 07 July 2020 14:44 BST
Protester recounts car attack in Bloomington, Indiana

Two separate incidents on Monday saw cars deliberately driven into crowds of Black Lives Matter protesters – just as it was announced that the victim of a similar attack in Seattle has died.

On Long Island in New York State, a Toyota SUV struck two protesters in the street, sending them to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Anthony Cambareri, a 36-year-old man, has been arrested and charged with third-degree assault.

Meanwhile in Bloomington, Indiana, a driver described by witnesses as white and in her 40s reportedly revved her engine and drove into a large crowd, running several red lights with a woman forced up onto her car’s bonnet. The victim was taken to hospital; it is as yet unclear whether the police have identified the driver and passenger.

The protest where the attack happened was in part a response to a racist attack on 4 July in which Black human rights advocate Vauhxx Booker was subjected to what he himself called “an attempted lynching”. He was physically and verbally assaulted by several white assailants, who at one point shouted “white power” and “get a noose”.

These two incidents come on the heels of an attack in Seattle in the early hours of Saturday morning, with a car driving into protesters on a closed section of the Interstate 5 freeway. Two women were seriously injured; one of them, 24-year-old Summer Taylor, died in hospital on Saturday night. Protesters held a vigil in her honour.

The suspect has been named as 27-year-old Dawit Kelete, who now faces multiple felony charges. Police do not suspect him of being intoxicated or impaired while driving, having tested him at the scene of the attack.

While these three attacks have followed in strikingly close succession, they are not the only such incidents in recent weeks.

At the start of June, Frank Cavalluzzi of Queens, New York got out of his car to shout at protesters, brandishing a claw-like device featuring multiple knives before driving across the pavement. His attack was captured on camera from several angles, and he has since been charged with attempted murder.

The most notorious car attack in the US in recent years is the incident at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into a large crowd, seriously injuring multiple people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was protesting against the rally. Fields pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes charges.

Outside the US, vehicle attacks have been associated with terrorism for decades, particularly in Israel and the Palestinian territories. More recently, both Isis and al-Qaeda have promoted the method, and in recent years, car and truck rammings have been a hallmark of Islamist extremism, with major incidents in Nice, Stockholm, Berlin and elsewhere.

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