Republican lawmaker vows to run over protesters who block highways

Pennsylvania Rep. Aaron Bernstine says he "won't be assaulted in name of 'free speech."


In the wake of heated protests in St. Louis following the acquittal of the cop who killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a self-described Christian lawmaker from Pennsylvania endorsed running over protesters who block roads.

While sharing a news story about the St. Louis protests, Pennsylvania Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R) tweeted that “[i]f anyone EVER tries to stop my car on a highway with negative intentions… I will not stop under any conditions.”

In subsequent tweets, Bernstine called protesters “thugs” and “snowflakes” and vowed he “won’t be assaulted in the name of ‘free speech.'”

Bernstine dismissed replies pointing out that the tactic he is endorsing was recently used by an alleged neo-Nazi to murder a woman during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in addition to militant groups like ISIS.

Saturday morning wasn’t the first time Bernstine — a Trump supporter who’s serving his first term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives — has endorsed running over protesters with vehicles.

Running over protesters with cars is a tactic conservatives have sought to protect. As ThinkProgress reported last month, Republicans in six states “have pushed for laws this year that would shield drivers who hit protesters. The bills are part of a wave of anti-protest proposals introduced since the rise of the Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump resistance movements.”


As recently as August 15, Fox News’ website was home to a page glorifying running over protesters. A video on the page, which was republished from the conservative Daily Caller, was headlined, “Here’s A Reel Of Cars Plowing Through Protesters Trying To Block The Road.”

“Here’s a compilation of liberal protesters getting pushed out of the way by cars and trucks. Study the technique; it may prove useful in the next four years,” said the page, which was taken down days after the murder of 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.

Bernstine seems to think that tactic would be appropriate in St. Louis, where demonstrators took to the city’s streets on Friday to protest the acquittal of former city officer Jason Stockley, who shot and killed Smith in December 2011 following a high-speed chase through city streets. Squad car video footage recorded Stockey saying he was “going to kill this motherfucker” before he shot Smith multiple times. But the judge who acquitted Stockey ruled that the state didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the former officer “did not act in self-defense” — a decision protesters heatedly dispute. St. Louis police say the protests that followed the announcement of Stockey’s acquittal resulted in at least 23 arrests and injuries to 10 police officers.

Bernstine was also involved in controversy last month, after he claimed intruders vandalized his 107-acre beef cattle farm in New Beaver. He responded by posting a video to Facebook showing him participating in tactical firearms training, along with the hashtag #CastleDoctrine.


“I will never hesitate to defend my family should someone have tried to take that a step further,” Bernstine told a local news outlet at the time.

In his Facebook post, Bernstine claimed the alleged vandals were “just out of reach of the security cameras on our property.” Another local outlet reported that Bernstine never reported the incident to police.

Bernstine did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.