George Floyd: Fury as dozens of Minneapolis protesters nearly mowed down by truck ‘arrested without being read their rights’

Andrew Buncombe
Protesters raise their hands on command from police as they are detained prior to arrest and processing at a gas station on South Washington Street in Minneapolis: AP

Up to 150 peaceful protestersmany of whom had narrowly escaped being hit by a speeding fuel truck – were arrested and handcuffed after police in Minneapolis fired tear gas and flash rounds to surround them.

A number of those being arrested said they were not read their rights, and were not informed of what they were being charged with.

The Independent watched as one young woman was overcome after being hit by tear gas and had to lie on the ground as others urged the police to call for a medic. The police did not do so, and the woman and several others were tended to by first aid volunteers from among the protesters.

“Even peaceful protesters who are breaking curfew are subject to arrest. Please go home and stay there,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a tweet.

“The group on Washington Ave has been encircled by law enforcement. One firearm has been recovered near the location of the group.”

The arrests took place around 9pm close to a junction of the the I-35W interstate highway. Earlier, hundreds of protesters had been walking along the highway when a fuel truck barrelled towards them.

Images from the scene showed the bloodied driver, 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko, being surrounded by protesters, before he was arrested by the police. Officials later said it was not clear whether Mr Vechirko had been acting intentionally and that the issue was being investigated.

The protests, that have spread to more than 40 cities across the country, were sparked by the death in police custody of an unarmed African American man, George Floyd. He died after a white police officer was seen kneeling on his throat for eight minutes as he gasped for breath.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third degree murder. Three other officers present have not yet been charged, but all four were fired from from the force. Police chief Medaria Arradondo told CNN – in a message that was passed live on air to the family of Mr Floyd – he considered the officers’ silence and failure to intervene as evidence of “complicity”.

A young man who gave his name as Kayo, and who said he was 21, said he was on the highway when the fuel truck came racing towards them.

“It came down speeding. All of us were just peacefully protesting when the truck came,” he said.

“We f***ed it up when it came by. But coincidentally, the police then came. I don’t know – let actions speaker louder than words.”

As the protesters were arrested and led away with their hands bound behind their back with plastic ties, several officers displayed concern towards the people being led away and asked if the ties were too tight or were comfortable. In several incidents, people responded by saying the ties were were not too tight.

Earlier, however, there appeared to be less concern on display as police fired tear gas and flash guns, corralling the protesters to a small area close to Washington Avenue. A number of people were struck by the gas and one woman, said to be aged 20, was in particular distress. “She’s been tear-gassed or Maced or something,” said one man.

Dozens of heavily armed officers, backed up by officers on bicycles and armoured Humvees, herded the small group to a small area on Washington Avenue, where they were told to sit down. The media was not permitted to leave either, and reporters and photographers were threatened they too would be arrested for as much as getting to their feet.

The Independent’s Andrew Buncombe, in blue mask, interviews protesters as they are arrested in Minneapolis (Getty)

A number of people being led away said they had not been read their rights.

“I’ve not been told yet,” said one man, who said his name was Sherrell Thompson, when asked why he was being arrested.

Another man said he had similarly not been told why he was being led away.

‘I’ve asked five or six different officers at this point ,” said the man, who was wearing a green shirt. “But nobody will tell me.”

Nobody from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the enquiries.

On Sunday night, governor Tim Walz told reporters: “I am certainly thankful we have no fatalities or injuries. We are seeing very few incidents.”

One protester, Ahmed Al-Rwazek, said he had been hit by a rubber bullet the previous day, and then inhaled tear gas as police moved in to make the arrests.

On Monday, Mr Al-Rwazek, 31, said by phone he had been held for around two hours before being released. He said he and others had been told they could appear in court or else pay a fine for a charge or unlawful assembly.

“They used the tear gas and flash blasts to herd us together – like cattle,” he said.

“But this is not going to stop. These protests are going to get bigger and bigger.”

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