On July 22 at around 9:30 p.m., a car carrying participants in the Free Eric Oliver Campaign was ambushed and attacked by a white nationalist in a van in Ocala, Florida as they returned to Bronson from a rally in St. Petersburg.
The group of two white women and three African teenagers — including Eric Oliver who is currently facing a felony charge of aggravated battery for defending his family from a white lynch mob in Bronson — had driven to St. Petersburg earlier the same day to attend a community rally featuring a presentation by African People’s Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yeshitela at the Uhuru House.
As they approached Ocala, they decided to exit I-75 and take a shorter route to Bronson.
After stopping to get gas, the group noticed a dark van approaching. According to Dianne Tornay, the car’s driver, “As I was looking for the left turn we had to take, a dark van suddenly came up on our right. The driver, a white female about 35 years old, was leaning out of her window, waving her arms wildly and shouting angrily.”
The van suddenly drove forward about 10 feet and then abruptly slammed on brakes, jerking back several times until it was next to the car again. The van’s driver continued to yell at the comrades in the car.
After they made a turn onto U.S. 441, the dark van came up on them again, this time on the left side. In this high-traffic area, the van started trying to ram the comrades off the road.
Dianne told UhuruNews, “The woman started driving the van towards my car on an angle, accelerating as she tried to ram us. I could see her looking directly at me as she tried to hit our car. She made three of four swipes at us.”
The van forced them off the road into the parking lot of a closed restaurant.
“The van’s driver got out and was yelling threats and questioning me about whose car it was,” Dianne said. “Although it was she who attacked us, she threatened to call the Ocala Police on us.”
The woman also yelled, “What are you doing hanging around with a bunch of niggers anyway?"
When the van’s driver got back in and disappeared behind the restaurant, the comrades pulled off, taking the highway back instead of the shorter route.
Today’s Florida is 1960s’ Mississippi
This type of attack displays the atmosphere of colonial violence and hostility that the Eric Oliver case is happening in, reminiscent of the atmosphere of attacks faced by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other Civil Rights organizations in Mississippi in the 1960s.
This particular attack on a group that included African activists and a white solidarity worker is reminiscent of the murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white woman who had responded to a national call for people to come to Selma, Alabama to support a voting rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Liuzzo was providing transportation to marchers when four Ku Klux Klansmen — including an FBI informant — tried to force them off the road and shot her twice in the head. The African teenager riding with her, Leon Moton, only escaped by pretending he was dead as he lay still covered in her blood.
The Eric Oliver case is challenging the status quo in an area that is similar to the scenes of the Civil Rights struggles in Selma, Alabama and Philadelphia, Mississippi in the 1960s.
Bronson, Florida, the place where Eric Oliver beat back a white lynch mob attack on his home, had never in its history seen a protest prior to the March for Justice on July 7, 2012 in his defense. In that June 12 attack, a white lynch mob came to Eric’s family’s home demanding that they send out 16-year-old Mikey Vasquez. When the mob attacked Mikey, Eric stood up and defended him, beating the mob back.
After one of the lynch mob members yelled, “nigger you’re going to jail,” and called the police, cops came and arrested Eric charging him with aggravated battery.
The groundbreaking July 7 march challenged the good ole’ boy “down south justice” that supports white colonial violence against African people. The march demanded that all charges be dropped against Eric Oliver and that reparations be paid to the Oliver family for his unjust incarceration.
This and other actions are challenging the status quo and causing discomfort among those who want to maintain a situation where white violence against African people can go on unchecked, unchallenged and without resistance.
It’s quite possible that the white nationalist attacked the car because Eric Oliver and others tied to his case were in it. Whether or not the person who attacked the comrades in Ocala had any direct connection with the Eric Oliver case though, the attack is typical of the violence faced by the African community in North Central Florida.
Like the attack on Eric Oliver's family that occurred in June 2012, the attack in downtown Ocala represents a tendency of people in the white community to work as an extension of the State through vigilante attacks on Africans.
The white nationalist woman's threats to call Ocala police revealed her expectation that the State would condone and complete her attack, as the State has done so many times before, including the Eric Oliver case.
A recent glaring example of this is the murder of young Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL — less than two hours away — where police only charged the white nationalist murderer when pressured by weeks of nationwide protests.
We will not allow cowardly acts of intimidation to push back the movement to defend Eric Oliver and the right of African people to resist against colonial violence.
Our response to this attack is: No Compromise! No Surrender!
Free Eric Oliver!
Join the Eric Oliver Defense Committee!