Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Tuesday yet again encouraged Americans who experience closed roads and heavy traffic due to protests about the Israel-Hamas war in several cities across the country to take matters into their own hands.

In an interview with NBC News, the Republican senator labeled those who take to the streets to express their opposition to Israel’s handling of the conflict that has so far killed at least 33,800 Palestinians, as “pro-Hamas vigilantes.”

“Absolutely, I support people, if they’re blocked by traffic, by pro-Hamas vigilantes in the street, they should get out of their cars, they should move them to the side of the road, and they should let traffic continue,” Cotton said.

Cotton, however, claimed he wasn’t advocating for violence.

“I’m saying that if people are trying to get to work or pick up their kids from school or take a sick kid to the doctor and you have pro-Hamas vigilantes blocking the streets,” he told the network, “they should get out and move those people off the streets.”

In a separate interview on Fox News on Monday, Cotton commented on the protests that were underway at the time in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and Lower Manhattan in New York City calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

He said if similar demonstrations took place in his home state “there’d be a lot of very wet criminals that have been tossed overboard not by law enforcement but by the people whose road they’re blocking.”

“If they glued their hands to a car or a pavement, well it’d probably be pretty painful to have their skin ripped off but I think that’s the way we’d handle it in Arkansas,” Cotton added.

Cotton demonstrated his view of “how it should be done” in a video he posted on X, formerly Twitter, which shows an angry man in France confronting and shouting at those taking part in a sit-in protest and forcibly moving them to the side of the road.

This is not the first time Cotton has pushed extreme action against protesters.

In 2020, during the racial justice protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, Cotton called for military action to shut them down, in a widely criticized New York Times op-ed titled: “Send in the troops.”

What’s needed is an “overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” he wrote.

Confrontations between everyday citizens and protesters have proven dangerous in the past, with some people driving through crowds of demonstrators.

Between Floyd’s death and September 2021, according to an analysis by The Boston Globe, “vehicles drove into protests at least 139 times,” resulting in three deaths and more than 100 people getting injured. However, in most cases the driver wasn’t penalized, the newspaper noted.


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