They're Killing People With Cars Again
Across the country, Republican governors and legislatures have been excitedly passing or trying to pass laws making it legal for people to run over leftwing protesters. Well, any protesters, technically, but those of us on the Left don't really possess the desire to run people over that Republicans do. We'd prefer they vote for less horrible people, we'd prefer they get vaccinated, we'd prefer they didn't try to overthrow the government because they lost an election, but murdering people with our cars is not on anyone's priority list.
But unfortunately for Nicholas David Kraus, he does not live in Florida, Oklahoma, or Iowa, all of which recently passed "Go Ahead And Murder Some Protesters If You Like" Bills. So after driving his car into a group of people protesting the shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr. by US Marshals earlier this month, and after killing 31-year-old mother of two Deona Marie Knajdek Erickson, Kraus is now being held for alleged vehicular manslaughter
According to people at the scene (warning: video is disturbing), Kraus drove into the protest at 100 miles an hour, which doesn't seem like the kind of thing one does if they are not trying to kill anyone.
Police initially claimed that protesters dragged Kraus from his car and began to strike him, but protesters say that did not happen.
Activist Donald Hooker Jr. spent time alongside Knajdek [Erickson] at the protest, saw the crash unfold and documented on video the chaos that erupted immediately afterward.
"He was going real fast, and he sped up the closer he got to the barricades," Hooker said. "He got out of the car, and he tried to run. ... This was an attack. It was on purpose."
Hooker said others there "apprehended him safely" and handed him over to police. He challenged the police account that protesters struck the man in any way.
He went on to criticize the approach police took in responding to the scene. "They kept shouting they were going to mace us as if we were the enemies. ... We were the victims."
This is obviously not the first time this has happened. There was the tragic death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, along with well-known incidents of cars and trucks driving into protests in Buffalo, Tallahassee, and Portland. Last summer alone, 66 protesters were hit by cars. "All Lives Splatter" memes are highly popular and normalized in rightwing online spaces to the point where one sheriff's office thought absolutely nothing about sharing it from their Facebook page. Some have actually convinced themselves that it is so horrific of protesters to sometimes be in the streets that running them over is completely justified. This should not be surprising given how thrilled they are by the idea of Pinochet killing dissidents by throwing them out of helicopters. It is essentially the Right's version of cute cat pictures.
Kraus has previous arrests for driving while intoxicated and domestic violence, the latter of which involved him holding a pillow over his girlfriend's head and telling her "he would take care of her jaw if she continued to run her mouth and threatened to throw her over the top railing of the house." He also held her down and prevented her from making a 911 call. The charges of domestic assault, interfering with a 911 call, and resisting arrest were dropped, though it is not clear why.
So he seems like a real peach.
Naturally, rightwing propagandists like Andy Ngo are already trying to frame this in a way sympathetic to Kraus. Tweeting out a video of the aftermath, Ngo wrote "A major crash happened in Minneapolis involving a car and street protesters. One protester reportedly died. The driver was pulled out and assaulted by the crowd before being taken into police custody."
Which is very different from what actually happened.
This was initially what Kraus told the police, and a possible explanation for why one of the charges he is now facing is "giving false information to the police."
Erickson's mother and brother spoke on Monday night to the hundreds of mourners who turned out for a vigil meant to honor her life.
Her mother, Debbie Kenney, wore a black T-shirt Knajdek had asked her to [wear] while protesting on the streets. It read: "I Will Never Understand But I Stand."
"She wanted something to matter and she wanted Black lives to matter and for this all to stop," Kenney said. "There is no need. This is why they were coming together last night was to be peaceful and to use words to make an impact on people around them.
"My daughter's life being lost last night should empower us all to move forward to do a better cause. We will scream her name for the rest of my days. We will continue to pound the ground and make a fight for my daughter and for everyone else that she impacted and why she was doing that impact."
This should go without saying, but as darling as the Right thinks these memes are, it is actually not okay for them to go around killing people with their cars. It would be real swell if they could learn that lesson sooner than later.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse