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Pennsylvania lawmaker: I wouldn’t stop my car for protesters blocking streets

Renatta Signorini
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A man throws a rock into the window as demonstrators march in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police arrest a man as demonstrators march in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police arrive as demonstrators march in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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People run after vandalizing as demonstrators march in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police talks to some protesters as demonstrators march in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police gather as demonstrators march in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police rest after multiple arrests were made following a protest in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted on Friday in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police make multiple arrests after a peaceful protest turned violent response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted on Friday in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Police talk after multiple arrests were made following a protest in response to a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in St. Louis. Stockley was acquitted on Friday in the 2011 killing of a black man following a high-speed chase. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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State Rep. Aaron Bernstine

A Lawrence County state representative drew criticism over the weekend for tweeting that he would not stop his car if protesters “with negative intentions” ever tried to stop it on a highway.

State Rep. Aaron Bernstine’s tweet, posted early Saturday, came in response to a news article about protests that erupted in St. Louis over the acquittal of a white police officer who fatally shot a black motorist in 2011. Crowds have blocked traffic during the protests, which entered their fourth day Monday and have been marked by overnight violence and destruction.

On Twitter, Bernstine, 33, wrote that “I will not stop under any conditions” for anyone with “negative intentions.”

Dozens of people have been arrested — including 80 people overnight Sunday — in St. Louis since former city police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted Friday in connection with the fatal police shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24. Investigators said Stockley, 36, shot Smith five times following a high-speed chase, the Associated Press reported.

The former officer testified that he felt threatened because he saw Smith holding a gun. Prosecutors alleged that Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting.

Many people objected to Bernstine’s original tweet, posted at 12:26 a.m. Saturday. Some found it particularly objectionable in light of the Aug. 12 incident in Charlottesville, Va., in which a man with ties to white supremacist groups drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a rally opposing the removal of a Confederate statue, killing one person and injuring 19.

By 8:42 a.m. Saturday, in response to a tweet in which the progressive group Keystone Progress listed Bernstine’s office phone numbers, the Lawrence County Republican encouraged people to call him.

Three minutes later, Bernstine tweeted that he refused to be “assaulted in the name of ‘free speech.’ ” He referred to protesters who try to stop cars and threaten drivers as “thugs.”

It’s not the first time Bernstine’s activity on social media has drawn attention. In an Aug. 22 Facebook post, he warned would-be vandals after he found garbage and feces strewn on the driveway of his New Beaver beef cattle farm. The post was accompanied by a video of him shooting at a target during tactical firearms training and the hashtag #CastleDoctrine.

Bernstine is a first-term lawmaker who represents constituents in parts of Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties. He could not be reached for comment.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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