A 61-year old Mississippi man was arrested early Sunday morning for throwing a bomb into a Tupelo Wal-Mart to protest the retailer for halting Confederate flag sales. Marshall Leonard was taken into custody around 2 a.m. Sunday. He is expected to be charged on Tuesday with planning or placing an explosive device or a weapon of mass destruction, a crime that could carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if Leonard is convicted.
The bomb detonated, but it was a bit of a dud, as it only did minimal damage to the Wal-Mart facility. Nobody was injured in the blast. Leonard allegedly drove up to an entrance to the store around 1:30 a.m., lit a newspaper wrapped package containing the bomb, and hurled into the store. Shortly before throwing the bomb, he told a Wal-Mart employee to run, because he was about to “blow up the place.”
Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre noted that Leonard’s motive was apparently tied to his passion for the Confederate flag. Aguirre told reporters:
He’s a strong supporter of keeping that flag flying. This is his way of bringing attention to that.
Mr. Leonard surely got the attention of Wal-Mart employees and law enforcement officials. However, his attention seeking methods may have done his lost cause more harm than good. In the debate over whether the Confederate flag represents heritage or hate, Leonard has clearly made a strong case for the flag standing as a symbol of hate.
Like many on the racist far right, Leonard’s tactics underscore an eliminationist ideology. For eliminationists, disagreements are not settled through rational discourse, because political opponents are viewed as enemies to be destroyed. For people like Marshall Leonard, Wal-Mart’s decision to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise is essentially an act of war. Wal-Mart then becomes an enemy to be vanquished, along with politically correct liberals, people of color, and anybody else Leonard disagrees with.
Fortunately, Leonard’s bomb making skills did not match his destructive intent. However, his technical incompetence does not negate the fact that he is a domestic terrorist, and a menace to the people of Mississippi.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.