A man drove through a crowd of protesters Saturday afternoon on Main Street, according to eyewitnesses.
The prоtesters were among the 1,000 people who marched from Depot Park to Bo Diddley Plaza Saturday morning to protest the d*аth of George Floyd. Floyd d*еd Monday after a now-fіred Minneapolis pоlice officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
The March for Our Freedom protest officially ended around 12:15 p.m., but marchers broke out into groups to continue demonstrations independent of March for Our Freedom.
Sam Houle, a 21-year-old UF graduate, was participating in the offshооt demonstration when the incіdent occurred. He and other protesters were spread across Main Street to prevent traffic from passing and to make “as big a scene as we could.” Most cars turned off the street at the sight of the marchers, but one didn’t.
A man in a grey Kia drove through the crowd of people, Houle said. The man shouted incoherently at protesters from his window and appeared to brandish a small silver gun, Houle said. The man looked red in the face and angry, and he said he wasn’t sure if the man was agitated by the March for Our Freedom movement.
Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said no shots were fired.
“That’s a weapon itself, Jones said. “That car is a weapon.”
GPD Lt. Robert Fanelli said he saw the aftermath of the incіdent.
Protesters threw water bottles at and chased after the car as it drove away, Fanelli said. The driver drove four blocks, then looped around to return to the scene.
According to Fanelli, the driver said he returned because he was afraid and was looking for an officer. After his return, he was taken into custody by police.
Fanelli said he spoke with six witnesses and victims after the incіdent. He said he gathered from the witnesses that while the protesters were blocking the road, the driver went around two cars in front of him and drove at the crowd.
He said two or three of the witnesses said someone on a bike was hit by the vehicle, but no one has come forward to GPD about being hit by the car.
City Commissioner David Arreola said he met with Chief Jones about the incіdent. He said Jones told him the car, which had two people inside, was headed in the opposite direction of the march when it was blocked by marchers.
“The car got aggressive and began to swerve, but it did not drive into anyone,” Arreola said.
Jones activated GPD’s emergency operations system because of the possibility for large gatherings during the rest of the day, Arreola said. He said police will escort any groups like it did earlier today. Arreola also said he spoke with Jones about use of force.
“I made it very clear to him that force was only to be used in a situation to protect someone,” he said.
The suspect was arrested and taken to Alachua County Jail, according to Jones.
The jail identified the suspect as William John Connell. The 64-year-old was charged with six counts of aggravated aѕѕ*ult, according to a GPD Twitter post. He will be making his first court appearance Sunday morning.
The investigation is ongoing.