Truck drivers have been put in some terrible predicaments as protests and sometimes-violent riots have spread across the country in recent days. There have been reports of protesters looting trucks caught in the protests, and bricks and other items being thrown at trucks as demonstrators protest police brutality in the wake of the May 25 death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Two major incidents, one in St. Louis and one in Minneapolis, had drivers clearly fearing for their lives. Warning: Videos are disturbing
In the wee hours of Saturday morning in St. Louis, a FedEx truck had to detour off Interstate 70, which was blocked by protesters.
But the driver had to stop when his route was blocked by more protesters. As the truck stopped, protesters surrounded the truck and began banging and climbing up on the passenger side as others climbed between the trailers to take packages out of the trailer. The driver told police two people on the passenger side steps pointed guns at the driver, but a witness said some of those banging on the truck were trying to let the driver know there was a man trapped between the two trailers. Fearing for his safety, the driver sounded his horn and drove away, dragging the trapped protester, who died at the hospital, according to published reports.
A spokesperson from FedEx released the following statement regarding the incident: “We are deeply saddened to learn of a tragic situation involving a demonstrator in St. Louis and one of our vehicles. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family of the individual involved. There is no higher priority for FedEx than safety, and we are cooperating fully with the investigating authorities at this time.”
The other video is in Minneapolis, where a Kenan Advantage tanker rig, horn blaring, scattered a group of protesters who were blocking the interstate on I-35W. Reports indicate that no protesters were hit by the truck, but the crowd swarmed the rig, pulled the driver out and attacked him. Although the footage is scary, the driver later said that the majority of the crowd was actually protecting him.
The driver was arrested on a probable cause of assault, but later investigation appears to indicate his actions were not intentional.
Minnesota Department of Safety Commissioner John Harrington said, “You winced because you imagined you would see bodies under the tires of that truck. When you didn’t see that, it was frankly possibly a miracle.” Harrington also said the driver likely “saw the crowd and he panicked.” He slammed on his brakes after seeing a woman in a bicycle fall down. “We don’t have any information that makes this seem like this was an intentional act,” he added.
Gov. Tim Walz said the driver was apparently confused and didn’t mean to injure anyone. Traffic cameras show the driver was already on the freeway before it was closed.
The incident prompted the Minnesota DPS on Monday to tweet about the dangers of protesting on interstates.
After semi drives into protesters Sunday on I-35W, State Patrol Col. Matt Langer reminds everyone of the dangers of taking to the interstate. “The freeway is a very dangerous place to be when you are protesting. The freeway is just not the place to do it,” Langer said. #MACCMN— MnDPS_DPS (@MnDPS_DPS) June 1, 2020
In response to these incidents, many drivers recalled the incident of Reginald Denny nearly 30 years ago, a construction truck driver pulled from his truck during the LA Riots in 1992 and beaten nearly to death.
According to published reports, one message reportedly sent to drivers cautions them that if they find themselves in protest areas “if you somehow are stopped by a crowd, stay in the truck and keep moving slowly. Call 911 for help. You have every right to assume people assaulting you in your vehicle present a danger.”
But one manifesto making the rounds on Facebook is just as disturbing in its way as these incidents are.
“Dear America...” it starts out. “The American trucker will not be held hostage, threatened, robbed, or killed. We will not be a victim. We will not be this generation's version of Reginald Denny…. We will defend ourselves everytime, [sic] up to and including, using our 80,000lb [sic] trucks and it's [sic] 1,800 foot-pounds of torque to run you over.”
Drivers’ frustration and fear of being caught in one of these situations is understandable – but threatening to run protesters over is unacceptable.