Two drivers drove through a crowd of protesters in Hollywood last night, resulting in at least one injury. Demonstrators had gathered in L.A. and across the nation to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict the three police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department, the demonstration drew about 300 people at about 7 p.m. Just after 9 p.m., a blue pickup truck on Sunset Boulevard “became involved in an altercation. As the driver attempted to get away from the situation, he struck a protester standing in the street.” That person sustained minor injuries and received treatment at a local hospital.
Shortly thereafter, a white Prius “also became involved [in] an altercation with individuals in the crowd. A black pickup truck, leading the protests accelerated and pinned the white Prius in, forcing it to come to a stop. The driver of the Prius attempted to flee the area and reversed into a green mustang behind it. That vehicle was also participating in the protest.”
The LAPD says protesters attempted to “extract” the driver from the Prius. The driver managed to escape the scene but was later detained by officers several blocks away. All drivers and victims have been identified, and the LAPD continues to investigate. No one has been arrested.
Now, that’s the statement from the LAPD. Delve into alternate views of the incident, and you’ll find heated arguments over whether the drivers were in the wrong for attempting to go through crowds as opposed to around, and if those decisions were intentional. As we know from previous incidents, like the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, sometimes drivers do plow through demonstrations on purpose. On July 9, USA Today reported that 66 protesters had been hit by drivers since May 27. In an op-ed for NBC News’ THINK, Ari Weil, deputy research director at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, called it a “dangerous far-right trend in America.”
“In the U.S., vehicle rammings gained popularity on the far-right as a violent anti-protest tactic during the early waves of Black Lives Matter street-blocking protests in 2015,” Weil wrote. “Memes online then normalized this behavior and encouraged drivers to take matters into their own hands. But these memes are not limited to the dark corners of the internet, and neither are these attacks. We are now seeing everyone from an avowed extremist in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a reported Ku Klux Klan member in Lakeside, Virginia, to an older woman in Indiana, charged in this kind of attack.”
KTLA’s Sky5 chopper caught the incidents from overhead. In the footage, you can see the Prius attempting to slowly turn east onto Sunset Boulevard from Cahuenga Boulevard through a group of people. In another view, tweeted by NBC’s Kenny Holmes, you can again see the Prius try to go through the crowd. After it’s pinned between the truck and the Mustang, you can see someone hitting the windshield with an object, which the commenter believes to be a skateboard.
It’s not clear why the driver of the Prius attempted to drive through the crowd versus finding an alternate route in the first place. In this clip, you can see that a car in front of the Prius made a right turn away from the group without incident.
KTLA’s chopper also caught the blue pickup as it drove down Sunset Boulevard between Seward Street and Schrader Boulevard at about 8:45 p.m.
LAPD Capt. Steve Lurie told the L.A. Times that the driver claimed protesters attacked his truck first and that officers did find damage to the vehicle. But freelance photojournalist Christian Monterrosa told the Times that “the truck instigated the incident, definitely,” and that other drivers had yielded to protesters. As seen below, one of the protesters caught the moment when the truck rams into another demonstrator on video. Please note before watching, it is disturbing.
Lurie said the LAPD will continue to investigate whether the drivers are “the suspect of a hit-and-run or the victim of an assault.”