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Throwing of rocks or stones is one of the most ancient forms of ranged-weapon combat, with slings used to increase the range of such projectiles having been found among other weapons in the tomb of Tutankhamen, who died about 1325 BC. In many places, rocks are readily available as weapons, more so than more sophisticated weapons. Because rocks are dense, hard objects, a forcefully thrown rock can do substantial damage to a target, particularly if the rock has sharp or jagged edges.
Rocks thrown at cars moving along highways at high speeds have been a problem in a number of countries. According to Austin, Texas police detective Jarrett Crippen "When we’re talking about highway speeds of 60, 70 mph, that rock is hitting you full-force... If it's coming through your windshield, it can cause serious damage to the body, vehicle or even death." A Washington State trooper said of an arrest of criminal rock-throwers, "Any one of these rocks could have punctured a windshield, hit the driver in the face and killed them." Although the rocks are often thrown from overpasses or high points along the roadside, people riding in cars have also been killed by rocks thrown at random vehicles from passing cars. Thrown rocks can kill in a number of ways; a rock can hit a passenger directly in the head with lethal force, a rock can strike the driver causing him or her to lose control of the car and crash, the "jolt and shock of a barrage of stones smashing against the front windshield" can cause the driver to lose control and crash, or the out of control vehicle can slam into a passing car, causing it to crash.
Notable instances of death and injury caused by rocks thrown at cars include the death of Julie Catherine Laible, a professor at the University of Alabama, the Darmstadt American rock-throwing incident in which American teenagers killed a 20-year-old woman and critically injured her grandmother, then hit another car, killing the 41-year-old mother of 2 small children, the Death of Chris Currie, 20 years old, on a road in New Zealand, the Killing of David Wilkie by striking miners throwing rocks at cars in the United Kingdom, and the I-80 rock throwing in which youths hurled rocks from an overpass on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, critically injuring and permanently disfiguring a passenger.. In 2017, a single American highway, Interstate 75, was the scene of 2017 Interstate 75 rock-throwing deaths in two separate incidents.
- Australia: Section 49A of the Crimes Act provides a maximum 5-year prison sentence for "throwing rocks and other objects at vehicles and vessels".
- United Kingdom: expansive legislation on public disorder introduced in 1986 allows stone throwers to be sentenced on average to 3 1⁄2 years in prison if the criminal justice system can prove that the action took place in a riot.
- New Zealand: individuals who throw rocks at cars can serve 14 years for endangering transport.
- United States: rock-throwing can be a felony and rock-throwers could face criminal charges, dependent on the circumstances that may include second degree murder, aggravated assault, throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle, criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment of life, and aggravated assault with a lethal weapon. Punishment upon conviction varies as with all punishments for all crimes. A Florida judge sentenced a teenager to serve life in prison for throwing rocks at cars. A New England judge, ruling on teenagers convicted of throwing stones at the windows of passing trains that resulted in eye injuries to passengers, sentenced the convicted to be kept in an eye-injury ward of a hospital for two weeks with their eyes bandaged to make them understand the consequence of their delinquency. Rock throwers can be charged, tried, and convicted even when no injuries or damage result. Under American law they can receive very long sentences and even be sentenced to life in prison. Under American law, individuals who were part of a group engaged in rock-throwing can be convicted and imprisoned even if they did not personally throw any missiles.
- Turkey: the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced a range of legal measures criminalizing both Kurdish political claims and protest activities by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The harsh sentences handed down against stone throwing children (taş atan çocuklar) led to a public outcry and to an amendment reducing the length of the sentences on the grounds that it was inappropriate from "a criminal justice point of view".
- In Vietnam: youths convicted of "vandalism and battery" for throwing stones at vehicles have been imprisoned.
In Florida, statewide policy is to install fences on highly trafficked overpasses and those near schools. An exception is Manatee County, where all overpasses have it due to a rock-throwing death in 1999.
Throwing rocks at trains is a long-standing problem in countries including the United States and New Zealand, where passengers and train crews have been injured by large rocks thrown through windows.
In political protests and riotingEdit
Many notorious and deadly riots have begun with rock throwing, or included rock throwing as violence escalated, including the Toronto Jubilee riots, the Boston Massacre, and the 2014 Hrushevskoho Street riots in the Ukraine.
Throwing of stones at Indian Armed Forces and Police is frequent in the Indian province of Kashmir. Usually carried out by youths, in the local language it is called "Kanni Jung", which means fighting with stones and the stone pelters are called as Sangbaaz. There are claims that the rocks are thrown in response to killings of Kashmiri youth at the hands of forces. But as per the Dailymail, India Today Television's underground reporters interviewed some of the stonepelters where stonepelters revealed they are being paid 5000–7000 rupees per month and are being given some clothes and shoes by the Anti-India forces for pelting stones on Indian army.
Rock throwing has been in the past often adopted as a method by an unarmed population to protest a governing power's authority. Under English common law, soldiers were not permitted to shoot at civilians engaged in this kind of protest, unless their lives were in danger or they obtained beforehand an express order from a civil magistrate.
At one point, when town officials tried to arrest a British officer who was commanding the guard at Boston Neck, Captain Ponsonby Molesworth intervened to confront a stone-throwing crowd. Molesworth ordered the soldiers to bayonet anyone throwing stones who got too close. A Boston justice told him that, under common law, a bayonet thrust was not an act of self-defense against a stone, which was not a lethal weapon. Had a soldier killed anyone, Molesworth could have been tried for his life.'
Rock throwing during riots is a criminal offense, for which rock throwers can be charged with felony crimes, including assault on a law enforcement officer. Incidents of criminal rock throwing have resulted in arrests during sports riots; especially notable are incidents of rock-throwing football hooliganism.
- In the U.S., charges vary by state. For example, in New Hampshire, Oregon individuals who throw rocks during demonstrations can be charged with riot, also called "criminal mischief," a felony.
- Turkey presses charges and imposes prison sentences for the crime of being part of a group throwing stones at police, even when the rock-throwers are 15 years of age and younger.
Rock-throwing can be used by thieves, as demonstrated by a 2015 case in India in which Ratan Marwadi (45) was charged with throwing rocks at a random passer-by, Darshana Pawar, for the purpose of disabling and robbing her. Pawar was killed. Her murderer, Ratan Marwadi, had previously served time in jail for pelting rail commuters with stones with the intent of robbing them.
In the 19th century, "stone throwing" was defined as a "nuisance", one of a number of offenses such as "kite-flying" and "doorbell ringing" to be handled by bylaws which differed from town to town.
- In the United States individuals throwing rocks at another person can be arrested and charged with assault, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. As a 15-year-old, actor Mark Wahlberg was charged in 2 separate incidents of throwing rocks and shouting racial epithets at African-American children.
United States – MexicoEdit
Rock-throwers on the Mexican side of the border between the United States and Mexico frequently target United States Border Patrol agents with barrages of rocks to prevent them from apprehending individuals illegally crossing the border, particularly smugglers moving illegal drugs or illegal migrants across the border. Between 2010 and 2014 Border Patrol agents were assaulted with rocks 1,700 times, they fired weapons at rock throwers 43 times, resulting in 10 deaths. Border Patrol agents are permitted to respond to rock-throwers with lethal weapons, although as of 2014 policy is that they should attempt to avoid finding themselves in situations where responding to rock-throwing with lethal force becomes necessary.
Spain – MoroccoEdit
In recent years, increasing numbers of undocumented sub-Saharan Africans have passed through Morocco attempting to reach European Union countries, many attempt to enter Spanish soil at two Spanish enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, located on the African side of the Mediterranean Sea. On several occasions, Moroccan and Spanish border authorities have defended lethal violence against African illegal immigrants near the Melilla border fence and Ceuta border fence by asserting that groups of migrants attempting to storm the border in mass-entry events threw rocks to drive border guards away from the gates.
Egypt – GazaEdit
Stone throwing rioters have repeatedly clashed with Egyptian troops at the Egypt-Gaza border.
- In 2008, Gazans assaulted Egyptian border guards by throwing barrages of rocks over the low, concrete border wall topped with barbed wire, then tore down a section of the wall, opening a road and moving goods and people across for several hours before the Egyptian Army, avoiding the use of lethal force, managed to regain control of the border.
- On 6 January 2010 Hamas called on Gazans to protest the Egyptian border blockade; Gazan men responded by massing at the border and throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Egyptian security forces, who responded with gunfire.
Hungary – SerbiaEdit
- Image of sling from the Tomb of Tutankhamen Archived 3 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
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