MINNEAPOLIS (KARE) — The driver of a semi truck who drove through I-35W during a peaceful protest for George Floyd Sunday evening has been arrested, and officials say no protesters were injured.
The truck driver was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
A witness said he saw the truck "barreling down, blaring its horn" without appearing to have any intention of stopping, as protesters gathered peacefully on Interstate 35W.
"You heard a horn," he told KARE 11's Boyd Huppert. "It was barreling into that crowd and they were separating, just parting, thankfully."
Another protest attendee, Sam Ndely, says he always believed in miracles. But Sunday, while kneeling and praying, he said he witnessed one.
He was attending the No Bail rally in honor of George Floyd when someone driving a tanker truck crashed into the crowd.
“It was a terrifying moment,” he said. “Considering all of the history with 35, and seeing that many people protesting for justice, [it] was very peaceful leading up to the incident that happened.”
Ndely and other protesters said rally organizers told them Minneapolis Mayor Frey was going to address the crowd. They were awaiting his arrival. Giselle Ugarte was among the group on the 35W Bridge.
“It’s a miracle no one got hit. People started running. I thought it was a false alarm or something,” Ugarte said. “There was fear that we could get caught in a line of fire or that it was a setup of some kind to trap us all in one place or scare us into going home.”
Ugarte said before the tanker truck rolled in, unity was on full display.
"Even though we were not touching, it felt like we were holding each other," she said. "Before going back up the ramp, everyone stopped and took a knee in silence. You could've heard a pin drop. It was magic."
Bystander video showed the crowd parting seconds before the semi rolled through, then the tanker truck gradually slowed and demonstrators swarmed the truck.
“Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators,” the state patrol tweeted. The driver was taken to a hospital for injuries after being pulled from the cab, but was quickly released and was in police custody on probable cause for assault.
In a Sunday evening news conference, Gov. Tim Walz described footage of the truck driving into the crowd as a “horrifying image” and said that it underscores the “volatile” nature of the situation.
“I don’t know the motives of the driver at this point in time,” he said. “But at this point in time to not have tragedy and many deaths is an amazing thing.”
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Sunday that between 5,000 and 6,000 people were on the bridge at the time, and it initially appeared from traffic camera footage that the semitrailer was already on the freeway before barricades were set up at 5 p.m.
State Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said at a later briefing, however, that the truck went around a traffic barrier to stay on the road.
Police fired tear gas trying to remove crowds of protesters off the ramp onto Interstate 35W from University Ave. It's unclear what prompted the move but it came shortly after the truck drove through.