Tom Cotton Thinks Protesters May Need To Get ‘Their Skin Ripped Off’

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaks with members of the media on March 22, 2024 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion spending bill to fund the government th... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaks with members of the media on March 22, 2024 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September and avert a partial shutdown. The legislation will now go to the Senate for consideration. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has been a fan of violence against protesters for some time. Interestingly, it’s only the demonstrators who have certain causes — like Black Lives Matter or Gaza, as opposed to, say, Stopping the Steal — that seem to catch the senator’s attention, and prompt genuinely diabolical proposals for how they might be retaliated against.

Famously, back in June of 2020, Cotton penned an op-ed that was published in the New York Times advocating for the deployment of the military to the streets of U.S. cities to violently break up protests that swept the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. (The Times placed a lengthy editors’ note on the op-ed just two days after it was published, declaring that the piece “fell short of our standards and should not have been published.”)

Here’s an excerpt from Cotton’s 2020 op-ed, in which he cast BLM protesters as “nihilist criminals” who are “simply out for loot” and liable to “take more innocent lives”:

But the rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence. On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.

These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives. Many poor communities that still bear scars from past upheavals will be set back still further.

For his part, Cotton did condemn the violence that broke out at the Capitol on Jan. 6, but he did so by calling both 2020 George Floyd protesters and the mob of Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol trying to overturn the results of the election “insurrectionists.” From his statement:

“Last summer, as insurrection gripped the streets, I called to send in the troops if necessary to restore order. Today, insurrectionists occupied our Capitol. Fortunately, the Capitol Police and other law-enforcement agencies restored order without the need for federal troops. But the principle remains the same: no quarter for insurrectionists. Those who attacked the Capitol today should face the full extent of federal law. 

It is worth noting that Cotton did go further in that Jan. 6 statement than you might hear from some of his Republican colleagues today. He called the rioters “insurrectionists” and said they must face “the full extent of federal law.” Those wannabe coup-ers should have to answer for their crimes in court, he acknowledged.

Not so for those disrupting traffic to protest Israel’s campaign in Gaza, which has seen the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians as hundreds of thousands more face starvation.

This week, Cotton tweeted advocating for vigilante violence against demonstrators who have been shutting down traffic in cities like San Francisco and Chicago to protest on behalf of Palestinians.

The tweet followed similar comments he made to Fox News on Monday morning when he suggested protesters may need to get “their skin ripped off” to learn a lesson about their supposed crimes.

“If something like this happened in Arkansas on a bridge there, let’s just say, I think there would be a lot of very wet criminals that have been tossed overboard, not by law enforcement but the people whose road they’re blocking,” he said. “If they glued their hands to a car or the pavement, well, probably painful to have their skin ripped off, but I think that’s the way we’d handle it in Arkansas. I’d encourage most people anywhere that gets stuck behind criminals like this, who are trying to block traffic, to take matters into their own hands.”

On Tuesday, he doubled down, tweeting a video of a driver in France grabbing climate protesters who were blocking traffic and throwing them to the side of the road. “How it should be done,” he tweeted.

Obviously, calls for vigilantism to combat a slew of perceived harms and annoyances have been on the rise within the mainstream Republican Party for some time. The Jan. 6 insurrection could in fact be seen through that lens.

In recent months, House Republicans like Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) have used Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s standoff with the federal government at the border to agitate for similar vigilante behavior. Far-right extremist groups like the United Patriot Party of North Carolina have taken rhetoric from Republicans like Roy as a call to arms. And perhaps most grimly, since a spate of 2010s racial justice and climate protests, state lawmakers have repeatedly introduced bills that would excuse motorists who run over protestors — an effort that was reinvigorated after 2020’s George Floyd protests.

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