OP-ED |

U-Haul Attack Highlights Rising Threats to President

Post-Jan. 6 violence increasingly targeting the President, lawmakers.

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A U-Haul is not a precision weapon, but it is a deadly one, particularly when being driven by a man threatening to kill the President of the United States.

At around 9:40 p.m. Monday, a young man driving a 26-foot U-Haul “supermover” repeatedly bashed into the security barriers in Lafayette Square, a verdant, seven-acre spread inside the President’s Park in Washington, just footsteps from the White House.

U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division officers rushed to the location of the crash at the 1600 block of H Street Northwest, determining the driver had intentionally charged into the bollards outside Lafayette Park (bollards are short, vertical posts).

statement from the U.S. National Park Service and Secret Service said the driver, Sai Varshith Kandula, was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon (the “weapon” appears to be the U-Haul truck), reckless operation of a motor vehicle and “threatening to kill/kidnap/inflict harm on a president, vice president or family member, destruction of federal property and trespassing.”

Upon closer inspection, the man was a teenager from Chesterfield, Missouri, who just graduated from high school last year.

An American, Kandula, 19, did not immediately appear to be on any watch lists or seem to have a serious criminal history. During his arrest, authorities said he climbed out of the truck, waving a Nazi flag and making threatening statements about taking over the government and killing the president.

One member of law enforcement reported that Kandula threatened President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Another report stated he went so far as to say he wanted to kidnap Biden.

“There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel,” said Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Secret Service, adding that the “cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation.”

The truck – the largest-sized vehicle U-Haul has to offer, according to its website – was eventually opened by police via a remote-controlled robot and seemed to be carrying little more than a dolly. No explosives or firearms were found. Video footage from the scene revealed a Nazi flag on the ground, and reports indicated the driver had duct tape, a backpack and a notebook filled with pages of scrawl — his plans going back months.

Kandula made a brief appearance in court Tuesday and was ordered to be held without bond ahead of a hearing Wednesday in federal court.

While the White House said Biden wasn’t in danger at the time of the crash, the incident highlights a very troubling trend toward violence and terrorism in and around the Capitol and the White House, especially since the Jan. 6 insurrection, with threats directed at Biden, Harris and lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Although the nation’s leaders – and especially its presidents – have long had to contend with serious threats, violent political rhetoric has ratcheted up to a fever pitch, with attackers and would-be attackers sometimes traveling hundreds of miles across the country, as Kandula did, to target U.S. leaders, in person.

Violence and Terrorism in the U.S. by Ideology 

Aside from Jan. 6, the hammer attack in October on the husband of Democratic House Rep. Nancy Pelosi has perhaps been the most shocking of the many attacks to linger in the public consciousness – remember, both were captured on video – but politically motivated assaults, overall, seem to be getting bolder and, frankly, a lot stranger.

Last year, a man drove from Independence, Kansas, toward Washington to attack Biden, but was intercepted in Maryland by the Secret Service in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel (of course, it had to be a Cracker Barrel).

The man, Scott Merryman, told authorities that God had directed him to travel to Washington to “lop off the head of the serpent in the heart of the nation,” referring to Biden. Merryman, who was carrying a loaded magazine for a .45 and a spotting scope in his backpack, was charged with threatening to assassinate the president with a “fatal head wound,” a threat he also had the presence of mind to post on Twitter.

Merryman stated, according to the complaint, “he had information about the book of Revelation that he was being instructed by God to give to the president.” 

Merryman’s mission, he said, according to the filing, was that “he had to deliver a message to President Biden and advise him that people were fed up with the divisiveness in the country and to turn back to God (or go to hell).”

Such anger over national divisiveness is affecting a wide range of public servants, with both Democrats and Republicans reporting death threats.

Exactly one year after the insurrection, in January 2022, a survey asked each member of Congress to indicate whether they had received any death threats since 2020. Of the 147 who responded, 110 said they had. Among them, 77 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats reported receiving death threats in the prior two years. 

Threats that cross the line from verbal to physical are considered rare, but this trend requires further examination, as it is not going in the right direction.

The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of The Daily Upside, its editors, or any affiliated entities. Any information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. Readers are encouraged to seek independent advice or conduct their own research to form their own opinions.