A disturbing increase in threats and violence aimed at Republicans has stoked fears that the American political process is crumbling, which conservatives blame on the left fanning anti-Trump fervor into an out-of-control political blaze.
While no one tracks exact statistics of political violence, a Washington Times review of reported incidents uncovered at least 15 major skirmishes since February. The number is likely greater, however, since so many incidents are unreported.
“The hard left is certainly getting more active,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernadino. “We had the first homicide from the far left in many, many years this year.”
Multiple incidents last week highlight the increase in violence targeting Republicans as Election Day nears.
• The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) headquarters in Richmond was vandalized with glass windows and doors smashed. It was the second time this year the building was vandalized.
• A retired school teacher in Arizona was arrested and accused of leaving a death threat on the office voicemail of Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona Republican.
• Two women were charged with hate crimes for allegedly harassing a 7-year-old boy and his mother outside the Democratic National Convention in Delaware because the child was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
• Federal prosecutors in California arrested a man they say firebombed the headquarters of a local Republican women’s organization.
“With respect to the individual reporting of specific incidents of intimidation committed against conservatives, they are not given the same level coverage in the mainstream media that maybe some in the niche media would,” Mr. Levin said.
The media has breathlessly covered the rise in right-wing violence that has emerged over the past few years, largely fueled by white supremacist groups.
Mr. Levin said far-right and far-left extremist violence differ because the leftist incidents appear to be less organized and typically target one or two individuals. Far-right violence, meanwhile, has typically been more deadly as its perpetrators seek to cause mass casualty events.
“The hard-left is a sapling, while the hard-right is an oak,” he said. “But we can no longer say that fatal violence is really just limited to the hard-right, although they look for higher body counts.”
The scale of left-leaning violence appears to be on the increase, as evidenced by the killing of a supporter of President Trump in Portland last month.
Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a member of the right-wing Patriot Prayer group, was shot and killed last month during the riots in Portland, Oregon.
Suspect Michael Reinoehl, who admitted the killing while claiming he was defending a non-White friend, was fatally shot by federal agents when they tried to arrest him. Reinoehl, who had described himself as “100% Antifa,” was armed at the time, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
Danielson’s group had come to Portland to counter-protest the demonstrations that have occurred nightly in the city since the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
Some on the left say the incident is an outlier because Danielson and Reinoehl were both part of groups confronting each other.
Mr. Levin disagrees.
“We are regarding it as a hard-left suspected extremist-motivated homicide and we are not going to put any lipstick on it because some people might not like it,” he said.
Rich Anderson, chairman of the RPV, whose Richmond headquarters has been vandalized twice this year, puts the blame squarely on the Democrats’ rhetoric.
“The left certainly fears the reelection of President Trump and Vice President Pence and does, in fact, indisputably employ this level of violence against those who disagree with them on policy matters,” he said. “They’ve moved from debate in the public square and the marketplace of ideas into the use of force and violence.”
Republicans say the Democrats’ silence on the left-wing violence that has spread across the country this summer has been a factor. But not condemning the mobs who have rioted and looted major cities, Democrat leaders tacitly condoned violence of all kind, they say.
“It is no coincidence that this uptick in violence against Republicans is occurring as crime has skyrocketed in Democrat-run cities over the past three months,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement to The Washington Times. “Democrat leaders need to enforce the rule of law and crack down on violent protesters and riots to ensure that neighborhoods remain safe and citizens feel comfortable to go out in their cities and to their polling places as Election Day approaches.”
Mr. Anderson said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney weren’t forceful enough against the violence and vandalism that occurred in the city during racism protests over the past three months. That lax attitude, he said, created an atmosphere leading to the damage of the Republican headquarters.
“Their neglect creates a sense of security in these people and they feel like they can do what was done last night,” he said the morning after the vandalism.
After the attack, Mr. Stoney issued a statement condemning the vandalism against the Republican Party headquarters saying, “destruction is not how we win arguments.”
Mr. Anderson wasn’t impressed, saying “I know Stoney did a tweet this morning, but his actions sure speak louder than his words.”
Trump supporters young and old have been victimized.
In June, an 82-year-old man was walking down the street holding a Trump hat and wearing a Trump sign when, according to authorities, a 27-year-old motorist ran out of his car and assaulted him.
“Give me the f—ing sign!” Aidan Courtright of Fall River, Massachusetts, said as he charged Trump supporter Charlie Chase.
Mr. Courtright is accused of throwing Mr. Chase on the ground and kicking him in the legs and ribs before driving away. He also purportedly tore up the Trump sign. He has pleaded not guilty to violating civil rights with injury, to assault and battery on a person over 60 years old, and to vandalizing property.
In Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden’s home state of Delaware, two women were indicted on hate crime charges last week. Olivia Winslow and Camryn Amy also face robbery, assault and child endangerment charges.
Prosecutors say they stole a pro-Trump hat worn by a 7-year-old boy and then threw it over a fence during the Democratic National Convention in Wilmington, Delaware. The boy’s mother told local reporters she was “punched in the face” multiple times during the incident.
The two women have yet to enter a plea.
Mr. Trump sent the boy a gift package, including a signed “Make America Great Again” hat and other presidential paraphernalia.
Gregory Timm stands accused of ramming his van into a Republican Party voter registration tent in February in Florida, running over chairs and tables. He also made an obscene gesture as he sped off, according to witness reports.
Mr. Timm told authorities with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department that he doesn’t like the president and “someone had to take a stand.”
No one was injured in the assault, but campaign workers were shaken up. Someone driving a car into a crowd is what killed Heather Heyer in the notorious Charlottesville riots.
Carlos Espriu, 23, of Palm Desert, California, last week was charged with attempted arson in the May firebombing of the East Valley Republican Women Federated office in La Quinta, California.
Authorities say they got their man because the car he was driving and clothing match the images captured by a nearby video camera.
The incident caused $9,000 in damage and the group set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the damages.
“The terrorizing goes on,” the page said. “Their headquarters have experienced increased hostility including: multiple harassing phone calls daily, eggs thrown at the windows, and drive-by shouting accompanied by obscene gestures.”
Just days before the incident, police said Mr. Espriu had posted on Twitter that, “I wanna go burn s—t n get hit with tear gas.”
Mr. Anderson said he hopes Mr. Trump takes more aggressive action towards the violence.
“My prayer is after President Trump’s reelection he exercises his authority to put an end to this,” he said. “This has to stop somewhere. We have to return to the American tradition of debating, even fiercely, in the marketplace of ideas.”