Tom Cotton(l), Palestian Flag(r)

U.S. Senate Photo Office/Wikipedia Melnikov Dmitriy/Shutterstock (Licensed)

‘Senator advocating for vehicular homicide’: Tom Cotton accused of calling for ‘vigilante violence’ against pro-Palestine protesters blocking traffic

'Take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way.'


Katherine Huggins


Posted on Apr 16, 2024   Updated on Apr 16, 2024, 11:55 am CDT

Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) suggestion that individuals inconvenienced by pro-Palestine protesters blocking traffic take matters into their own hands has left many on social media outraged.

“I encourage people who get stuck behind the pro-Hamas mobs blocking traffic: take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way,” Cotton wrote Monday night. “It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.”

Edit history on the post shows that Cotton quickly changed the initial post to add “get them out of the way.”

Cotton’s post came in the wake of multiple, recent incidents of pro-Palestine protesters blocking street traffic, including on the Golden Gate Bridge and I-880 in Oakland as well as on I-190, blocking traffic near Chicago O’Hare Airport. Across both protests, more than 90 people were arrested.

According to the Associated Press, other protests blocking traffic occurred at the Brooklyn Bridge and in Eugene, Oregon.

Many read Cotton’s post as “openly inciting vigilante violence” and accused him of “advocating the murder of dissenting Americans.”

In a second post on Tuesday, Cotton doubled down while implying that he supported physical removal of protesters.

“How it should be done,” Cotton wrote, sharing a video that appears to have occurred in France in which a man grabbed, dragged, and forcibly moved aside a line of protesters blocking traffic.

Cotton made similar remarks during a Fox News interview on Monday, saying that “if something like happened in Arkansas on a bridge there, let’s just say I think there’d be a lot of very wet criminals that had been tossed overboard” by people affected by their blocking of traffic.

“If they glued their hands to a car or the pavement, well, probably pretty painful to have their skin ripped off, but I think that’s the way we’d handle it in Arkansas,” he continued. “And I would encourage most people anywhere that get stuck behind criminals like this who are trying to block traffic to take matters in their own hands. There’s only usually a few of them and there’s a lot of people being inconvenienced. It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.”

Cotton’s calls drew swift and voracious backlash, with some individuals referencing Cotton’s infamous 2020 op-ed in the New York Times calling for a military response to the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country following the police killing of George Floyd.

“Tom Cotton, 2020: In my NYT op-ed, I was only calling for the use of violence against rioters, not peaceful protesters,” wrote one X user. “Tom Cotton, 2024: Civilians should use violence against peaceful protesters.”

“An assigning editor on the New York Times Opinion section has the opportunity to do the funniest possible thing right now,” joked someone else.

But most criticism stemmed from the various ways Cotton’s initial X post could be interpreted, with some reading it as a call for those affected by blocked traffic to use their vehicle to move protesters.

“Driver violence is so normalized in this country that a sitting US senator feels comfortable writing to millions of people that he thinks people should kill or maim protestors with their cars if they’re late to work,” one person wrote.

Responded someone else: “Ladies and gentlemen, nothing to see here but a United States Senator advocating for vehicular homicide.”

Since Israel declared war on Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack against civilians in Israel, nearly 34,000 Palestinians have been reportedly killed.

The issue of U.S. policy toward Israel amid the war in Gaza has divided politicians, but Cotton has remained one of the staunchest advocates for Israel in Congress.

“Hamas—and only Hamas—is to blame for the lives lost in Gaza,” Cotton said in early April.

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*First Published: Apr 16, 2024, 11:32 am CDT