Truck Drives Through Florida Protesters; No Serious Injuries


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A pickup truck drove through a crowd of protesters Saturday in Florida’s capital, sending some running and screaming as the vehicle stopped and started and at one point had a person on its hood, police said.

Video shows Tallahassee protesters walking around the truck as it stopped at a traffic light, while some appeared to speak to the driver. In one video, a bottle was apparently smashed against the widow and the truck then suddenly accelerated, knocking several people to the side, but no serious injuries were reported.

Saturday’s protest demanding justice for George Floyd was one of several in Florida and dozens across the nation. Demonstrators outraged over Floyd’s death faced off against heavily-armed officers in other states Friday, with some smashing police cars, ransacking businesses and setting fires that smoldered through the night.

An officer, who is seen on video pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd begged for air, was charged Friday in Floyd’s death.

Lucas von Hollen, an IT instructor at Florida State University, said participants were chanting, marching and carrying signs Saturday near the Capitol building when he heard a distinct scream of fear. He looked out a window from a second-floor work building and saw the burgundy pickup.

He said it slowed down as some protesters moved aside, while others remained in place.

“Then the truck revved its engines … a couple people got out of the way, but some people didn’t, and it just drove straight through the crowd,” he said.

Witnesses said a group followed the truck, forcing it to stop. Tallahassee Police immediately handcuffed the driver, shut down the street and redirected protesters to another area.

Police did not release the name of the driver or say whether he would face any charges, saying details would be forwarded to the state attorney once the investigation was complete.

“This is an extremely tense, emotional time across the nation,” Chief Lawrence Revell said in a statement. “Mutual respect among all of us is vital. The Tallahassee Police Department supports the nonviolent gathering of protesters and will uphold their constitutional right to do so while making every effort to maintain a safe environment for our community.”

Von Hollen said police responded swiftly and efficiently in full force, separating the driver and protesters before the situation could escalate, adding he felt “zero sense of danger” after taking to the streets to catch a glimpse firsthand.

“Some people were carrying negative signs about the police and the police were helping them out anyway,” he noted. “It was refreshing and a reminder that, yeah it’s pretty bad in other places, but it doesn’t seem to be that bad here.”

Further south in Miami, what started as a peaceful protest turned violent as a small group set fire to police cruisers, prompting police to respond with tear gas and fireworks to disperse the crowd, witnesses said. The mayor set a 10 p.m. curfew.

At one point, Interstate 95 was shut down in both directions as a group of protesters stood on the busy highway. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez warned on Twitter that the highway protest was “creating a dangerous situation for themselves and others. This is not the place or way to protest.”

Police officers later used bicycles to push back an increasingly rowdy crowd throwing rocks.

“It started off peaceful and we were just walking around chanting stuff, trying to have all our voices heard and when we got to the police department that’s when things started to get a little rowdy,” said Savano Wilkerson, a 22-year-old West Palm Beach resident.

He was overcome by the tear gas, along with others around him.

“I had to get milk poured in my eyes twice because I was hit with the gas twice,” he said. “There were people out there whose eyes were burning like mine.”

Police issued a dispersal order, warning protesters they would be arrested for trespassing if they did not leave the area.

“If you resist arrest, you may be subject to other police action, which may include the use of less lethal munitions which could cause significant risk or injury,” Miami-Dade Police said on Twitter.

In Tampa, Florida, protesters smashed store windows and set a gas station ablaze on Saturday night. Some broke into an AT&T store and a jewelry shop after the protests earlier in the day had been peaceful.

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