Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 21, 2010

ANOTHER ROUND OF ANTI-GOVERNMENT VIOLENCE.... Over the weekend, a well-armed unemployed carpenter named Byron Williams allegedly initiated a shootout with police in Oakland. Williams' mother told reporters her son, who survived the ordeal, was angry at "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items." Another report indicated that Williams has a history of opposing "liberal causes."

I held off on writing about this, waiting for official confirmation about the gunman's motivations. Alas, the early reports were correct -- Williams was an anti-government zealot, hoping to start a "revolution." (via Oliver Willis)

Convicted felon Byron Williams loaded up his mother's Toyota Tundra with guns, strapped on his body armor and headed to San Francisco late Saturday night with one thing in mind: to kill workers at the American Civil Liberties Union and an environmental foundation, prosecutors say.

Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to "start a revolution" with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, authorities said.

But before he made it to the city, Williams was stopped at early Sunday by California Highway Patrol officers for speeding and driving erratically on westbound Interstate 580 west of Grand Avenue in Oakland.

Police say he then initiated a chaotic, 12-minute gunbattle with officers, firing a 9mm handgun, a .308-caliber rifle and a shotgun. He reloaded his weapons when he ran out of ammunition and stopped only after officers shot him in areas of his body not covered by his bullet-resistant vest, authorities said.

Remarkably, no one was killed, though Williams was firing a rifle with ammunition that "could penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, police said." He was in court yesterday, and will face all kinds of criminal charges, including the attempted murder of four police officers.

But stepping back, every time there's violence like this, I'm reminded of the concerns raised by the Department of Homeland Security last year, about potentially violent anti-government extremists -- concerns that appear increasingly prescient.

These examples of politically-motivated attacks seem to keep piling up. Just this year, John Patrick Bedell opened fire at the Pentagon; Joe Stack flew an airplane into a building; Jerry Kane Jr. and his son killed two police officers in Arkansas; and the Hutaree Militia terrorist plot was uncovered. Last year, James von Brunn opened fire at the Holocaust memorial museum; Richard Poplawski gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, in part because he feared the non-existent "Obama gun ban"; and Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. In 2008, Jim David Adkisson opened fire in a Unitarian church in Tennessee, in part because of his "hatred of the liberal movement."

Let there be no doubt: deranged madmen are responsible for their own violent actions. But in the wake of these attacks, I don't think it's unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others.

Steve Benen 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

"Let there be no doubt: deranged madmen are responsible for their own violent actions. But in the wake of these attacks, I don't think it's unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others."

Absolutely correct in both respects, but don't hold your breath for the second part to happen.

Also, don't expect any of the "serioius people" in the so-called-liberal-media to hold the right-wing fear mongers accountable for their rhetoric.

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 21, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that the Tides Foundation was singled out by Glenn Beck on one of his TV shows as having a connection to ACORN. Otherwise, how do you explain the gunman selecting the Tides Foundation as one of his targets?

Posted by: jonp72 on July 21, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Small point, you can't reload if you've run out of ammunition.

Posted by: Andrew in Berkeley on July 21, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

If he's not a member of the NBPP or ACORN, we're all safe. No story here.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on July 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that Democrats and liberals are also violent:

http://www.redstate.com/moe_lane/2010/07/19/meet-mike-griffing-cna-head-goon/

Of course, Mike's not getting into any shootouts, but he is instigating violence at a political rally. Something that the liberals accuse teabaggers of doing, but ensure that no light is focused on when liberals do the same.

But please, Drum, continue to paint this unemployed whacko as a teabagger.

Posted by: Jisty on July 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The solution, obviously, is more widespread gun ownership. [/sarcasm]

Posted by: Basilisc on July 21, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

But please, Drum, continue to paint this unemployed whacko as a teabagger.

Thanks for proving how stupid you teabagger trolls really are. (I know, I know, cut-and-paste is soooo complicated!)

Posted by: cr on July 21, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

The clown wanted to kill people at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation

The Tides Foundation works for Environmental and Social justice

His mother is probably an accessory to the crime
She knowingly got those weapons for a convicted felon

Here's a case where the 'Three strikes' law should work. Two prior bank robbery convictions

Posted by: FriscoSF on July 21, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, Mike's not getting into any shootouts...
Posted by: Jisty on July 21, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

So why bring it up? In one instance, photograhers/cameramen are getting too much in someone's face and he reacts as threatened. In another a guy drove miles out of his way with the intent to kill people. If you think them's is appels and oranges, then you sir, are a jackass.

Posted by: slappy magoo on July 21, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Jisty. I fail to see what a guy slapping cameramen at a rally has to do with a guy with a carload of weapons and ammunition heading to an ACLU office to "start a revolution."

Posted by: chrenson on July 21, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

If you read the article, the one who's really scary is Mommie Dearest, creator of her own little stormtrooper.

Why is it these white supremacist types always prove that the white race is somewhere below lemurs on the evoultionary scale?

Posted by: TCinLA on July 21, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

See this excellent diary at DKOS:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/7/20/886030/-I-was-right-about-the-would-be-cop-killer-and-FOX-News-UPDATED-

Posted by: Ted on July 21, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

There is something dreadfully wrong with a political party that works tirelessly to insure that powerful weapons get into as many hands as possible and at the same time leans hard on rhetoric that incites those gun-filled hands to action.

If this were happening in any other country — say Afghanistan, for instance — these same people would be screaming that those foreigners must be stopped!

Posted by: chrenson on July 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

The voices in these guys' heads come from the radio. And the teevee. Then they echo around in those empty heads until they go grab them some armaments.

Sometimes I think the solution is for liberals to gun up and go after these bastards. It's mostly a fantasy, but it's an attractive one.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on July 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Something that the liberals accuse teabaggers of doing, but ensure that no light is focused on when liberals do the same."

Others have pointed out the outrageous false equivalency in Jisty's post, but I was motivated to do a quick google search and found that ALL of the references to this incident are on right-wing blogs. So apparently the liberals ensuring no light was focused on this incident include Fox News, the Washington Times, NY Daily News, etc...

Posted by: tanstaafl on July 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"The solution, obviously, is more widespread gun ownership." sez Basilisc, sarcastically.

Well, that's exactly what the right wing is saying. I quote from a letter to the editor in today's Albuquerque Journal (abqjournal.com):

"The tragedies at Emcore, Denny's Restaurant, and other similar tragedies highlight the reason I carry a concealed handgun. I want the opportunity to protect my family and myself from situations like that."

The writer details his qualifications and eagerness to be a hero, while recognizing that some of us other poor slobs probably shouldn't be allowed the privilege of being armed, and will just have to depend upon the kindness of people like him, who are.

Seriously. And he concludes that the more people who carry a concealed handgun, the safer we'll all be. Frankly, satire is dead in these United States.

Posted by: Zandru on July 21, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone notice that the right attracts the fringe crazies to do the work for them, I think these people sit around and listen to Limbaugh and Beck all day long, they begin to believe all that rubbish.
Another matter of interest Breitbart is now questioning the reliability of the poor white farmer & wife who spoke on CNN yesterday, saying the wife is not really his wife!!!!!!

Posted by: js on July 21, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK
I don't think it's unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others.

Well my friend, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. A lot.

They might ignore this unpleasant incident all together, but I suspect they won't be able to resist the urge blame the liberals:

a) Thanks to stupid liberal weenie laws against cruel and unusual punishment,Williams didn't get his hands chopped off when he was convicted the first time; and

b) If the liberals would just stop flaunting their liberal liberalness, these things wouldn't happen.

And illegal immigrants stole Williams' job. Because of liberals. Also2.

I'm just glad his mug shot is out. That might stop the creeps from claiming it was another Byron Williams from the Oakland area. (Care to guess the hue of his skin?)

Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on July 21, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to "start a revolution" with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, authorities said.

Funny, starting a revolution was allegedly the motive for the Manson Family's mass murder, too.


Posted by: Gregory on July 21, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Well their have been violent people on the left in this country during the Viet Nam war and some of the folks who turn out for the economic meetings and who support animals or the environment have at least intended to destroy property, but I think the important question is why are are deranged killers attracted to the right? Quite apart from the right's rhetoric egging them on, could it be that crazy people are attracted to crazy ideology?

Posted by: Terry on July 21, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

The solution, obviously, is more widespread gun ownership.

You forgot: 'And tax cuts. Taking the form of a refundable tax credit for all purchases of firearms and ammunition.'

You're never gonna get that Fox gig at this rate.... be stuck working at The Nation or someplace.....

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 21, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Not to be a stickler - I agree with the overall point of this - but the Pentagon shooter, John Patrick Bedell was a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who was a registered Democrat who subscribed to civil libertarian beliefs. He was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As a result, I'm not really sure he belongs on this list as a picture of right-wing hate.

Posted by: Rob on July 21, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Channeling Trent Lott, I say: "If only McCain had been elected, we wouldn't be having all these problems today!"

Posted by: DAY on July 21, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to "start a revolution" with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco. . .

The only thing that makes this guy different from any other Republican is his significantly higher level of personal bravery and poor driving skills.

Posted by: cld on July 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Well, thankfully these gunmen aren't terrorists, because then we'd be at Level RED RED RED on the Homeland Security Chart of Certain DOOM!

Posted by: danimal on July 21, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

2 of his targets were the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, both of which have been targeted by Glenn Beck on his Fox show. Time to start asking some questions.

Well, today we find out if Mrs. JP’s layoff is permanent or temporary. In the meantime, we have zero chance of being able to pay the rent next month so whatever little anyone can do would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by: jurassicpork on July 21, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like no one told Jisty about the Great Blogshift of Ought-Eight.

Posted by: Basilisc on July 21, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I've never used a gun or even held one in my hand in my entire life. I'm a nice, polite, middle-aged woman.

I'm starting to think about buying a gun.

This is NOT snark. I'm totally serious. Maybe I need to know how to protect myself from people like Byron Williams. I'm also starting to feel like maybe I'd better learn to fight them with their own chosen weapons.

Posted by: anniecat45 on July 21, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit [...] -- Steve Benen

When some imam or other preaches hatred at a mosque, he gets onto a terrorist list, PDQ. I wonder what makes Beck any different?

Posted by: exlibra on July 21, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know of any honest numbers tracking the frequency and severity of right-wing terrorism vs. Muslim terrorism in the period since last year's report was issued?

Posted by: AF on July 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

" I'm also starting to feel like maybe I'd better learn to fight them with their own chosen weapons.

per anniecat45, who describes herself as "a nice, polite, middle-aged woman".

This really isn't as logical as it may sound. You don't need a handgun to "fight" (better yet, defeat) someone armed with a handgun. A shotgun works better (at the close range you would expect, it would simply blow a hole through the target person). A grenade would take them out as well.

Or you might be able use the technique the pros use for hostage situations: talking.

Frankly, I believe that most "nice, polite" people wouldn't have a chance against an angry gunman. He would have the advantages of knowing what he wanted to do, surprise, and speed. One of us, as polite, reasonable people, would want to be DAMNED SURE that pulling a gun and using it would be the only alternative available.

We'd want to make sure we weren't firing on a plainclothes policeman, detective, or Secret Service person. We'd want to be sure we hadn't misread the situation, and the guy waving the gun was actually some citizen trying to defend us against someone else, perhaps not immediately in view. There might even be some qualms about taking down a retarded or disturbed person who was literally just "brandishing" with no serious intent to shoot.

In short, a normal person would be next to useless with a gun under these conditions.

On the other hand, brandishing a weapon would also make you Target # 1, to the shooter and to any law enforcement people who might arrive - or to other would-be "heroes".

It all boils down to - "Do you think you're lucky?"

I know how to shoot, am reasonably good at it - and would NEVER "concealed carry".

Posted by: Zandru on July 21, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

"These examples of politically-motivated attacks seem to keep piling up."

Please maintain a public list that I can link to whenever someone argues that fears of inciting morons to violence are overblown.

Posted by: Jon on July 21, 2010 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

"...Let there be no doubt: deranged madmen are responsible for their own violent actions. But in the wake of these attacks, I don't think it's unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others..."

They're being deliberately wound up by the fanatical right, so they're only *partly* responsible. The far right is ALSO responsible. It's time to get tough with *all* of these far right kooks, those who fan the flames included. It would be nice to live in a country where we could all engage in rational discourse to bridge our differences, but that's presently not the case. These people make that impossible.

Posted by: Varecia on July 21, 2010 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

The guy is obviously a terrorist. He should be water-boarded until he tells us what other terrorists he associates with...then they should be picked up and water-boarded, ad infinitum.

Posted by: Gridlock on July 21, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

He's not a terrorist, he's a sociopath and anxiety-junkie.

Posted by: cld on July 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't think it's unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others."

Correction: You should have said "some of the most successful far-right voices..." "leading" suggests they're legitimate. You're referring to Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, etc. They're not ideologues, they're con artists, frauds. They're out to make a buck, and this right wing nonsense is their meal ticket. They'll "lower the rhetorical temperature" only if it makes them a buck.

Posted by: SaintZak on July 21, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, he is outraged that cancer survivors can no longer be denied the opportunity to purchase private insurance coverage and consumers will have new protections from Wall Street fraud. Oh, the horror of it all. Soon we'll all be in FEMA detention camps.

Posted by: ameshall on July 21, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

cld: He's not a terrorist, he's a sociopath and anxiety-junkie.

That's like saying the 9/11 hijackers weren't terrorists, they were just really tired. A terrorist is a person who uses a violent act to force political change, regardless of his/her mental capacity.

Posted by: chrenson on July 21, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

A terrorist is a person who uses a violent act to force political change, regardless of his/her mental capacity.

Way too inclusive. That would include any soldier and Charles Manson.

Posted by: cld on July 21, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

So, my definition of a terrorist is "way too inclusive" but "sociopath and anxiety-junkie" [which doesn't preclude terrorist] isn't?

Posted by: chrenson on July 21, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

No no no!!!!! The problem is the tough looking black guys in Philly!!! Why are you focusing on this nonsense, Steve?!?!?

Posted by: Alex on July 21, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

I have to question the supposition that these people are responsible for their actions. I strongly suspect that they are so mentally and emotionally incapacitated that they are no more responsible for their actions than a three year old is. The people who have full responsibility are those who have egged them on and filled them with their right wing hate filled rhetoric. Those are the people who need to answer for this mayhem.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on July 21, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

chrenson,

the guy in question is a career criminal with a history of violence and apparently addicted to right-wing hysteria mongering so I think 'sociopath and anxiety-junkie' pretty exactly fit the bill.

Terrorists are organized, they're never 'lone-wolf' types who are just tools and dupes, like Teabaggers.

On the other hand the kind of people who make a career out of motivating and riling up the lone-wolf types are actually terrorists but usually can contrive a veil of plausible deniability.

Terrorists also don't exhibit inchoate, ill-defined and ill-articulated rage, they don't get into road rage incidents. They may be nuts but it's always considered in some detail and involves organization, planning and financing.

But some guy who just flakes out because he's spent his adult life trying to cheat the IRS and failed each time and flies his plain into the office of the IRS agent he last talked to, he's not a terrorist, he's a mental case.

Posted by: cld on July 21, 2010 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

So a twice convicted bank robber is upset because he perceives a leftist government is giving people money they don't deserve?

Posted by: SWENXOF on July 21, 2010 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

"...on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to 'start a revolution'..." SF Chronicle via Oliver Willis.

Isn't that how Stalin got started?

Posted by: Doug on July 21, 2010 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly