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A white man from southern California is facing hate crime and assault charges for allegedly driving into a crowd of Black people after yelling racial slurs at them.
Dennis Wyman, 42, of Redondo Beach, joins a KKK leader and dozens of others in charges linked to the wave of recent car attacks. It’s not clear why the victims were congregating in this case, but the attack bore disturbing similarities to scores of recent incidents targeting Black Lives Matter protesters across the country since George Floyd’s death at the end of May.
Police said that Wyman encountered a group of Black people standing in a hotel parking lot in Torrance, roughly 16 miles southwest of Los Angeles, at about 11.30 p.m. on June 29. Wyman allegedly started to hurl racist insults at the group, before getting in his car and speeding towards them.
One of the individuals in the group, a 50-year-old off-duty security guard, pulled out his handgun and fired several shots at the vehicle before he was hit by the car. By the time police responded to the reports of shots fired, Wyman had allegedly fled. The security guard was taken to hospital where he was treated for “lower extremity injuries.” Wyman was finally located and arrested on July 8.
Since George Floyd was killed by police on May 25, there have been at least 72 car-ramming incidents, according to data compiled by Ari Weil, deputy research director at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats of the University of Chicago.
A slew of distressing videos from protests, which have ended up online, show cars ramming into crowds of people. In at least one case, the results have been deadly. Summer Taylor, 24, was killed during a protest in Seattle earlier this month.
Of the 72 incidents, 65 were by civilian drivers and 7 by law enforcement, Weil found. And of the 65 civilians, 30 have been charged.
Suspects facing charges include the state leader of the Virginia Ku Klux Klan and a man from Bakersfield, California, who had a neo-Nazi tattoo.
All of the incidents are reminiscent of the deadly car attack during the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. A young neo-Nazi, who had memes glorifying car attacks on his phone, plowed into a crowd of protesters leaving dozens injured and killing Heather Heyer.
Similar memes, often with the hashtag #AllLivesSplatter, have recently proliferated online, according to Weil. The function of those memes is to dehumanize protesters and justify acts of violence, Weil wrote in an NBC News op-ed this week. For example, Weil wrote, one meme shared 5,000 times on Facebook since June showed Jackie Chan with the text ““If your lives matter so much, why do you stand in the middle of the road?”
Weil also pointed out that similar memes circulated in far-right online circles around 2015 and 2016, during a rash of car attacks on Black Lives Matter protesters and Standing Rock protesters.
Cover: Screenshot of Dennis Wyman's undated mug shot courtesy of the Torrence Police Department