How Often Do Violent Political Attacks Happen? The GOP Office In North Carolina Wasn't The First Of Its Kind
Late Saturday night, a GOP office in North Carolina was firebombed in an apparent political attack, raising tension and fears in what is already a contentious presidential race. The executive director of the state's Republican party, Dallas Woodhouse, released photos and spoke with the media Sunday, calling the act "political terrorism." A bottle of flammable liquid, described as a "significant Molotov cocktail" was thrown through the window, and on the building next to the office, a swastika was spray painted with the words, "Nazi Republicans get out of town or else." So how often do violent political attacks happen?
That all depends on what violent attacks are deemed political. Needless to say, it was once more common. Much of the focus this past year has been on the extreme right-wing terrorism and violence that has seemed to increase since the very beginnings of the election — take, for example, the Charleston church shooting in South Carolina. While a church might not seem political, the shooter's white supremacist views could be. The same political argument could be made for the attack on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood since abortion rights are guaranteed through the political process. Such a blatant attack on a politician or political campaign office has been far less common in recent years, but during earlier periods, that hasn't always been the case.
Take, for instance, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 — there's probably nothing more violent or political in American history than the assassination of a president. Then, his brother Bobby Kennedy was killed five years later during the presidential race; Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed earlier in the same year by a racist. And the motivations weren't always right-wing. Left-wing radicals like the Weather Underground back in the 1970s were bombing to protest against the Vietnam War and the Jim Crow South. Even prior to that, as far back as 1919, there were anarchists who targeted political leaders with bombings, which led to a crackdown on communists for the following years.
Even if attacks have become less frequent in recent years, they're still unacceptable, as government leaders from North Carolina and across the country pointed out Sunday. Gov. Pat McCrory left little doubt that such acts will not stand. He released this Statement Sunday:
The firebombing of a local political headquarters in Orange County is clearly an attack on our democracy. Violence has no place in our society — but especially in our elections. Fortunately no one was injured; however, I will use every resource as governor to assist local authorities in this investigation.
Both presidential candidates commented on the matter on Twitter. The GOP's top of the ticket, Donald Trump, placed the blame on supporters of Hillary Clinton, tweeting out, "Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning." The party tweeted back a "thank you."
Clinton, the Democratic nominee, put out a message on Twitter too. "The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe." The state GOP's also tweeted back a "thank you" to the opposition. Furthermore, the state Dems made a statement condemning the violence. State Democratic Party Chair Patsy Keever told The Charlotte Observer, "The North Carolina Democratic Party strongly condemns this attack. Violence has no place in our political system."
Local police as well as the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating. Finding the perpetrators may help insure that the attack isn't further politicized.