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Fears rise that GOP office firebombing in NC will stifle free speech as election nears

Blake Halsey, a 21-year-old college student and volunteer at the Orange County GOP office, takes a phone call from someone offering to volunteer on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 in Hillsborough, N.C. Halsey sits under the window where authorities say someone threw in a flammable device that burned the campaign office.
Blake Halsey, a 21-year-old college student and volunteer at the Orange County GOP office, takes a phone call from someone offering to volunteer on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 in Hillsborough, N.C. Halsey sits under the window where authorities say someone threw in a flammable device that burned the campaign office. AP

The firebombing of a GOP office Sunday in Hillsborough has earned international coverage, with many sites suggesting it underscores the divisiveness of the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

However, the attack is also raising fears that Americans should worry about their safety when expressing their political beliefs. This includes reports that attendees of a weekend Trump rally in Bangor, Maine, returned to the parking lot to find more than 20 cars vandalized with spray paint.

Here’s what media outlets are saying on the Web:

Dara Lind for Vow.com: “The 2016 election has already seen occasional flare-ups of violence, including Trump protesters getting punched at rallies and Trump supporters being pelted with objects at protests. … Now, the firebombing of the Orange County GOP headquarters is likely to raise fears among Democrats and Republicans alike that they’ll be the targets of political violence. … Both parties have recognized the attack as a threat far beyond the physical damage done to the headquarters itself.”

Romper.com: “After a rather contentious election season, both political parties have garnered their fair share of enemies, but the destruction seen in Hillsborough, North Carolina, on Saturday night was a step or three too far. The obvious question on people’s minds, of course, is who is behind the GOP firebombing? … Now, all the public can do is wait and see what the Hillsborough police uncover during their investigation, and remind people that elections should be an opportunity to become more democratic, rather than moving away from it into acts of violence.”

Guy Benson, political editor for Townhall.com: “Democrats have not faced accusatory demands to condemn the criminal acts committed by people on their end of the political spectrum. Does anyone doubt for a nanosecond that if the tables were turned on this story, and a Democratic office had been attacked, we’d be thrust into a very serious ‘national conversation’ about Donald Trump’s ‘dangerous rhetoric’? The cynical idea is to equate speech with physical violence, thus muzzling dissenting voices in the name of public safety.”

Donald Trump: “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning.”

Daniel Greenfield, frontpagemag.com: “The left likes to talk a lot about incendiary rhetoric. This is what actual incendiary rhetoric looks like. And these are its results. … If this had happened to Democrats, it would be a national news story blaming Trump’s rhetoric. But no one is going to hold Hillary and her associates accountable for their ugly hateful rhetoric.”

Liam Stack, New York Times: “The bombing occurred at a tense moment in American politics, just three weeks from Election Day and near the end of a divisive presidential campaign that has seen deepening hostility and suspicions between supporters of Hillary Clinton and those of Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly said that he believes the vote will be rigged against him.”

Hillary Clinton: “The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.”

Joseph D. Lyons, Bustle.com: “Late Saturday night, a GOP office in North Carolina was firebombed in an apparent political attack, raising tension and fears in what is already a contentious presidential race.”

Miles Klee for TheDailyDot.com: “The white-hot and increasingly radical rhetoric in the home stretch of the 2016 presidential election has once again bubbled over into violence.”

Perezhilton.com: “This is truly terrifying, and just another show of how out of control this election season has become. Such a scary, sad state of affairs this this election has brought out.”

Tribune Democrat in Johnstown, PA.: “Even in a presidential election year that has oftentimes carried an angry and divisive tone, Cambria County Republican Chairwoman Jackie Kulback said she never expected to see the day when a small town campaign headquarters would be fire-bombed in America. … ‘How could you even stop something like that?’ Kulback said, worried the North Carolina bombing could dissuade volunteers from stepping up to support their local political parties.”

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