Crime and Justice

Man reportedly drove truck into Manchester street as protesters knelt

People take a knee for a moment of silence as several hundred demonstrators gather in Rutland on Sunday, June 7, 2020, to protest the deaths of George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of police. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:12 a.m. on June 9 to add an eyewitness account and clarify comments from Manchester Police Officer Ryan Matteson.

MANCHESTER — Police are investigating a report that a man drove a truck through a roundabout where protesters were kneeling in the road on Sunday afternoon.

Protesters occupied the center of town, the intersection of Depot and Main streets, to kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, causing his death last month. 

The event in Manchester was one of many Black Lives Matter protests around the state last weekend. Manchester police did not have an estimate on the crowd’s numbers or the number of people who were kneeling in the roadway. Protest organizer Nancy Diaferio said there was about 50 to 60 protesters there at noon, and Facebook accounts indicate more people joined in over the afternoon. 

The demonstration stopped traffic on all three sides of the intersection, but a pickup truck reportedly passed other stopped cars and drove into the roundabout.

Manchester Police Officer Ryan Matteson said the department is collecting media and statements from witnesses, who largely scattered after the incident.

Diaferio had not heard about the incident Monday morning, but asked other protesters in a public Facebook page called Northshire Community Forum whether they had seen the truck.

Several protesters confirmed they had seen a white truck drive into the kneeling crowd. Others cited an incident earlier in the day in which a man drove in three circles around the roundabout with his middle finger raised to the protesters, who remained on the sidewalk at that time.   

Matteson said Manchester police have been trying to provide space for civic discourse, but law enforcement doesn’t encourage anyone to “break the law by blocking traffic.”

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“As a motorist, you still have to operate with due regard for hazards in the roadway,” Matteson said. “So that’s what we’re trying to figure out right now, whether any crimes were committed.”

Protester Erynn Hazlett, an Arlington resident, said she was involved in a non-violent altercation earlier in the day, during which a man in a vehicle blocked traffic to approach her and argue.

As cars navigated around the vehicle, Hazlett said, other protesters surrounded her. She then stepped into the street in an attempt to stop traffic entirely.

“It was too dangerous and chaotic to have a car halfway in and out of traffic,” she said. “I returned back to the island very quickly. It was not the right way to continue that argument and protest.” Eventually, the man in the vehicle drove away, she said.

Another protest is planned for Saturday in Manchester. Matteson said the department plans to continue supporting the cause. “We’re encouraging this protesting and this activism because we also want to see accountability,” he said.

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Emma Cotton

About Emma

Emma Cotton is a Report for America corps member with a special focus on issues of importance to Southern Vermont. She previously worked as a reporter for the Addison Independent, where she covered politics, business, the arts and environmental issues. She also served as an assistant editor at Vermont Sports magazine and VT Ski + Ride. Emma majored in science journalism at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she was editor-in-chief of the Current. In 2018, she received a first-place award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in the columnist category.

Email: [email protected]

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