The House Majority Whip in the South Dakota legislature has offered a measured apology for posting a meme on Facebook suggesting she supports running over protesters who block roads.
Earlier this month, over an illustration that showed a truck driving into protesters, South Dakota Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R) posted, “I think this is a movement we can all support. #alllivessplatter.”
“Nobody cares about your protest,” the post says. “Keep your ass out of the road.”
DiSanto published that post, which has since been deleted, less than a month after an alleged neo-Nazi used his vehicle to murder a counter-protester and injure 19 others during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The tactic has also been used by militant groups like ISIS.
DiSanto’s post largely escaped media scrutiny until this week. But following a number of reports about it, on Tuesday, her employer, Keller Williams Realty, announced it had severed ties with DiSanto, posting on Facebook that “[d]ue to recent events, Lynne Disanto is no longer associated with Keller Williams Realty Black Hills.” The post won’t immediately affect DiSanto’s standing in the legislature, however — House Majority Leader Lee Qualm (R) told the Associated Press she’ll stay on as House Majority Whip despite the controversy.
DiSanto was first elected to the legislature in 2014 and is perhaps best known nationally for pushing a measure to require everyone who applies for welfare benefits to take a drug test first. On Tuesday, she told the Rapid City Journal that she’s “sorry if people took offense to [the post] and perceived my message in any way insinuating support or condoning people being hit by cars.”
“I perceived it differently,” she said. “I perceived it as encouraging people to stay out of the street.”
Since DiSanto published her post, another Republican lawmaker has come under criticism for expressing similar sentiments. On Saturday, 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.’” He still hasn’t responded to a ThinkProgress request for comment made on Saturday.
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.”
A law of that sort hasn’t been introduced in South Dakota, but the Rapid City Journal notes that a law recently approved with DiSanto’s support “gives state and local government officials new powers to restrict and respond to large-scale protests, and says that unless otherwise directed by law enforcement or other emergency personnel or to seek assistance for an emergency or inoperable vehicle, anyone who stands on a paved or improved or main-traveled portion of any highway with intent to impede or stop the flow of traffic is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
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.
Both DiSanto and Bernstine are supporters of President Trump.