On May 30, Visalia became part of a national record of locations of vehicles plowing into crowds gathered to stand for progressive ideals.
On that day Tulare County residents peacefully protested in unity the national wave and support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement. It was also the day when a Visalia driver drove through a group of protesters that resulted in two injuries before leaving the scene.
Last week Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward announced that he would not charge the driver for running through protesters despite his negligence captured via video, photos and eyewitnesses.
I will submit that the Visalia driver the benefit of doubt that he is not an extremist, but his action was certainly malicious with intent and political.
The DA’s position is a blow to our confidence in our law enforcement. Something so obvious should at the very least been addressed with a citation.
The DA’s inaction of justice not only denied the two individuals the respect of justice, it brings greater harm as in giving confidence to potential “extremists” that these kinds of occurrences, should they happen, will go without consequence here in Tulare County. Further it grows a mistrust of local agencies not following through with the common sense of law.
The District Attorney could have at minimum charged the driver in violation of California Vehicle Code 22350 which states that a person cannot drive at a speed that, “..endangers the safety of persons.”; instead of comparing the dangers of a 12 oz., water bottle to that of a two ton jeep.
Just recently something similar happened in conservative Indiana on July 6 when a driver drove her red Toyota Corolla into a crowd dragging two protesters. Both of those protesters, like in Visalia, suffered non-life threatening injuries.
The difference between the two incidents, the Indiana driver was arrested and charged with two counts of criminal recklessness and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident.
Despite the fact that the Visalia driver did not kill anyone, his disregard for human life was at an instant evident. There are so many negative influences that encourage such activity. For instance on the internet postings featuring messages such as “Run them over” in reference to protesters.
Many will remember that incredible scene in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 when Heather Heyer, 32, was ran over by a right-winger, trapped under a vehicle and died at a counter “Unite the Right” rally.
We since have taken notice of many more similar incidents. The use of cars to break up peaceful protesters has become a very real threat across the country these days. We have seen it happen again and again nationwide.
Since the Visalia incident there have been much more than 50 of these vehicle-protesters incidents nationwide including in nearby Bakersfield. In that unfortunate event the driver also was not charged and the protester, a community advocate, was killed. It is important to note that the Bakersfield driver sports a neo-Nazi tattoo.
Although no one died in Visalia, two did get hit. The optics is bad, particularly now after the George Floyd murder that cries out for justice and police reform.
The Visalia driver clearly instigated the May 30th incident. The driver and his two passengers drove the blue Jeep Wrangler with a large “Make America Great Again” Trump flag mounted on the back end of the vehicle into an obvious large progressive gathering. What kind of greeting did he expect?
Not knowing or caring that he may have seriously hurt someone, he left the scene. After the incident he drove to the police station where he felt he would be safe. Why did he feel that confidence?
There are reasons why you don’t leave a scene of an accident, so that if necessary an immediate investigation can be conducted by law enforcement. If he felt unsafe he could have gone down the block or around the corner where he would be “safe.”
The driver reported that he feared for his life and drove off out of self-defense yet photos show him smiling wildly.
In the DA’s announcement he compares the dangers of a two ton jeep to that of a 12 oz water bottle as equally dangerous. True, protesters should keep themselves safe when on a public road way but drivers in vehicles should take extra precaution in such environments where people are on roadways. The facts are clear. The jeep injured two, the water bottle didn’t injure anyone.
We expect nothing more that blind justice and that law.
Farmersville City Councilman