Last week, when three African-American men in their early 20s asked a white man riding home on a St. Louis train what he thought of “the Michael Brown situation,” he declined to respond, saying he was too tired. In response, they viciously attacked him, landing at least a dozen blows until the lead attacker kicked him in the head and exited the train, laughing and smiling.
The assault, which was caught on video, has received far too little national attention. It was not only an anti-white hate crime; it fits the definition of terrorism precisely, and should be prosecuted as such.
Chapter 113B of the United States Code 2331 delineates three definitions of domestic terrorism, one of which is a “dangerous” act that “appear(s) intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.”
I live in St. Louis, and since last summer’s events, my fellow residents have been on edge when discussing the Ferguson matter, and race more broadly. In a healthy democracy there is room for both vigorous debate and deliberate caution in avoiding confrontation regarding highly sensitive topics.
Violence directed against someone who refuses to declare a particular political opinion, though, goes over the line. This attack did not only cow the victim, a 43-year-old named David Autry, into declaring he will never ride the train anymore. It sent a message to St. Louisans and people nationwide who believe Michael Brown brought about his own death (or who have no opinion) that they must suppress their own views, particularly when confronted by young African-American men – the demographic largely responsible for the destruction following the decision not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson.
The assailants are unlikely to receive much punishment at all, as their specific actions appear to fall under the category of third-degree assault – a misdemeanor in Missouri. But terrorism isn’t about the severity of the damage. It’s about the effect on the wider population. And I can tell you that I, at least, will be even more tight-lipped about my sympathy toward Officer Wilson if ever confronted by a stranger in my hometown.
The media’s relative silence on this incident is curious and disturbing, particularly given the likely uproar if three white men had beaten up an African-American who refused to express solidarity with Darren Wilson.
Even regarding the most sensitive of topics, a free society like America must protect its residents who want to express their opinions without fearing for their physical safety. People who undermine the nature of the public square itself should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
David Benkof is Senior Political Analyst at the Daily Caller. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter (@DavidBenkof); or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.