Another round of anti-government violence

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.