The Republican Party’s focus on stacking the judiciary with right-wing judges has had an unfortunate side effect upon the role of law that goes beyond the rulings that these judges may make in the course of their legal duties.
With extremist judges in place across the country, our nation is now facing some judges, apparently drunk with power, who believe that they can enforce their own vision of the law even when they are off duty.
Take John M. Tyson, a North Carolina Court of Appeals judge in Cumberland County, who was issued a criminal court summons on Friday on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly attempted to run down a group of Black Lives Matter protesters at a demonstration in downtown Fayetteville on May 7.
Myah Warren, a 23-year-old BLM activist, told a Cumberland County magistrate that Tyson was driving the vehicle that narrowly missed herself and other demonstrators against the unjustified killings of unarmed civilians by police across the country.
She claims that she and another protester had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck by Tyson’s SUV, which jumped the curb in its trajectory towards the protestors.
Warren sought a summons for Tyson after she determined that Tyson was intentionally trying to target protesters with his vehicle, based on what she considers to be his racist track record as a judge.
“He’s a well-known racist,” Warren said, citing a case in which Tyson denied consideration of racially-motivated animus being a factor in the murder of a Black man who was killed by a White man with a shotgun at a 2016 party.
Before the alleged attempted vehicular homicide took place, Fayetteville Police emergency dispatchers received a 911 call complaining about “reckless activity” because 5-10 protestors were supposedly blocking the roadway and surrounding the caller’s car.
Video later released by the Fayetteville Police, however, does not show any protestors surrounding Tyson’s car, but does show that Tyson circled the block once before returning to allegedly try to run over the demonstrators.
For his part, Tyson denies all the charges against him, with his attorney emphasizing that the court summons was “brought by an individual, not law enforcement, 7 days after the alleged date of offense.”
It will be interesting to see whether Myah Warren will be able to prevail against a presumably powerful figure in the North Carolina judiciary in the courts that Judge Tyson has worked in throughout his career.
The sad thing is that in some states with GOP control of the local legislatures, running down a group of protestors temporarily blocking a public thoroughfare would no longer even be considered a crime, no matter how deliberate the action might be, something that would have prevented the successful prosecution of the man who killed Heather Heyer with his car at the 2017 Charlottesville counter-protests to the infamous “Unite the Right” tiki torch march of neo-Nazis.
These unconscionable laws are simply one more sad legacy of the Trump era that needs to be repealed as soon as possible.
You can watch footage of the incident in North Carolina in the video below.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.