Anti-vaxxers are killing people—often themselves and their loved ones—every day, given how much more lethal COVID-19 is for unvaccinated people. But one anti-vaxxer recently decided to try to take out a whole bunch of people at once, not from the virus, but to get people to listen to his thoughts on vaccination. How? By opening the emergency exit of an airplane while it was in flight.
Michael Brandon Demarre was on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Portland, Oregon, last Friday when he tried to open the emergency exit. Flight attendants were able to restrain him—and this is not the other case of a passenger trying to open an airplane door in flight that involves a flight attendant hitting him with a coffee pot, just so we’re clear—and he has been charged with threatening to interfere and interfering with a flight crew and attendants.
“Once in Portland,” the Justice Department noted in a statement about the charges, “Demarre told officers he created the disturbance so other passengers would video record him sharing his personal views,” and an affidavit from an FBI agent specifies that Demarre wanted “the opportunity to share his thoughts on covid-19 vaccines.”
“In a passenger video obtained by the Register-Guard, Demarre is seen yelling, ‘We’re all being lied to,’ and muttering about coronavirus vaccines as he is taken off the plane by authorities,” The Washington Post reports.
So, yeah. Demarre apparently looked at all the viral videos of people behaving badly on airplanes and thought, “This is what I want.” Then he considered how he could get someone to record him, and he settled on opening the emergency exit. Luckily, people are not strong enough to successfully open an airplane door in flight, due to cabin pressurization, so Demarre wasn’t going to succeed in harming people to promote his ideas that also harm people. But the impulse was there.
And after a string of violent incidents on airplanes, a group of Republican senators is still vocally opposing a no-fly list for people who disrupt flights by, say, biting someone’s ear off, or peeing in a seat as an intentional act of protest against mask-wearing, or knocking a flight attendant’s teeth out.
The Republicans claim they’re opposed because “The creation of this list by DOJ would result in a severe restriction on the ability of citizens to fully exercise their constitutional right to engage in interstate transportation.” But really they’re opposed because it’s their people being violent on flights. It’s the anti-maskers and the anti-vaxxers—which they admit in their letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“According to data from the Federal Aviation Administration, the majority of recent infractions on airplanes has been in relation to the mask mandate from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA),” the group of eight Republicans wrote. “While we strongly condemn any violence towards airline workers, there is significant uncertainty around the efficacy of this mandate, as highlighted by the CEO of Southwest Airlines during a recent Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing. Creating a federal ‘no-fly’ list for unruly passengers who are skeptical of this mandate would seemingly equate them to terrorists who seek to actively take the lives of Americans and perpetrate attacks on the homeland. The TSA was created in the wake of 9/11 to protect Americans from future horrific attacks, not to regulate human behavior onboard flights.”
Because they’re being violent about a mask mandate they don’t support … the violence should not have consequences. If one airline bans you for knocking out a flight attendant’s teeth, you should be able to move right on to the next airline. There are more than a dozen airlines in the U.S., so unless you’re a very frequent traveler, it should take at least a couple years to get banned from all of them.
Also, the TSA regulates so much human behavior in airports and onboard flights. Much of it is security theater, but if I started screaming about “my rights” and throwing my shoes at TSA agents when told to take them off in the security line, the TSA would regulate the hell out of me.
It’s the Republican way, though: If a Republican commits a crime for Republican reasons, that Republican shall be deemed above the law.