Updated 12:30 a.m., June 1
A tanker truck driving at high speeds on the Interstate 35W bridge near downtown Minneapolis barreled toward people marching to protest the killing of George Floyd.
In a press conference that took place following the incident, state officials said it doesn’t appear any protesters were hit by the truck. The driver was treated and released from the hospital for injuries and is under arrest on probable cause of assault.
During that same press conference Gov. Tim Walz announced that Attorney General Keith Ellison will lead the prosecution in Floyd’s killing.
Demonstrators were still shaken as they described the tanker truck barreling down the freeway where thousands were marching peacefully. Eyewitnesses also described children in the path of the truck as it pushed toward the I-35W bridge crowd.
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The state Department of Transportation had shut down interstates at 5 p.m., so it remained unclear how the truck got on the interstate.
During a late night press conference Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said there were traffic diversions in place during the protest. "It appears as though the driver attempted to get around, did get around and ultimately entered that area,” he told reporters.
The driver was later identified as a 35-year-old from Otsego. The man was booked into the Hennepin County jail Sunday.
MPR News typically doesn’t name criminal suspects before they are charged.
“We were peaceful and kneeling. Everybody was sedentary, kneeling on the ground. And that semi pummeled through the whole fricking crowd! In peaceful protest!” one woman who witnessed the incident said through tears.
Video shared on social media show men rushing after the truck as it blared its horn down the freeway.
Charles Meyer, another witness, said people rushed at the semi and threw their bikes at the front wheels in an effort to stop the truck. The crowd then beat on the windows, men were kicking the front window in, and once they got into the cab, they “started beating them down.”
At some point, others started yelling to throw the driver over the bridge, Meyer said. “I jumped in to stop that. The police will take care of it,” he said, adding that others joined to intervene.
People started to back up, but when the police came, one officer started swinging at the crowd with a billy club, Meyer said. He said he was later sprayed with tear gas.
The motives of the driver are unknown at this time, Walz said Sunday evening. The Minnesota State Patrol and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are investigating.
Walz called it a “horrifying image on our television” and said the truck was carrying a flammable substance.
State officials said that the truck driver had been taken to HCMC but had since been released and was in police custody.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that thousands of protesters were on the highway when the truck barreled into the crowd.
Harrington called it “one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever seen” and that local and state investigators are treating the incident as a “criminal matter.”
The tank carried the label of Kenan Advantage Group. Headquartered in North Canton, Ohio, it describes itself on its website as "North America’s largest tank truck transporter and logistics provider, delivering fuels, chemicals, specialty products, food products and industrial gases through unique operating platforms."
The company has 300 terminal and satellite locations across the continent, with operations in Canada and Mexico in addition to operations in 40 U.S. states.
Photos from the scene in Minneapolis showed the label "Klemm Tank Lines" on the door of the truck cab. According to a news release on the Kenan Advantage website, it purchased Green Bay, Wis.-based Klemm in 2003 and now operates it as a subsidiary. Online job postings indicate Klemm has operations in Blaine, Minn.
In an emailed statement the company said “Our hearts go out to all those who are grieving the events of this past week.” They added they were aware of the incident, are cooperating with law enforcement but would not comment further.
A group returned to march on I-35W shortly before and into the set 8 p.m. curfew for Minneapolis. According to Minneapolis police the protesters there were peaceful and appeared to be “diffusing others who are showing aggression or anger.”
There were mass arrests reported in Minneapolis around 9 p.m. Police corralled a large group of protesters in a parking lot at the corner of Washington Avenue and I-35W and told the crowd they were under arrest, according to reporters at the scene.
The Department of Public Safety confirmed in a tweet that about 150 people were arrested at that location for curfew violations.
In a press conference Corrections Commissioner Schnell said "resources" were being moved from St. Paul to Minneapolis as incidents warranted Sunday, with the plan being to hit hot spots and get crowds to disperse.
Schnell said a "small number of arrests" were made at the Capitol and tear gas was used when people tried to breach a fence surrounding that building in St. Paul.
He added there were no known fires Sunday as of 10:30 p.m. but authorities still want to clear the streets. "We hope people go home as quickly as we can tonight. Because we are going to continue to arrest to have people comply with this order."
Later Sunday night, Minneapolis police reported incendiary materials and accelerants “like water bottles filled with gasoline” had been found hidden throughout neighborhoods in Minneapolis. They asked anyone who sees or finds such materials to call 911.
The incident on the highway marred an afternoon of large, peaceful protests in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Earlier in the day, protesters held a “Justice for George Floyd” rally in front of the State Capitol in St. Paul. During the rally, speakers and crowd members spoke out against police brutality and called for the arrests of the three other officers at the scene of Floyd’s killing.
After the rally, the peaceful crowd started marching onto westbound Interstate 94 before heading down University Avenue. Roads were closed along their route to protect the protesters’ safety.
There has not been a decision yet if the curfews for the two cities will extend into Monday night.
Ellison to lead prosecution
Attorney General Keith Ellison will lead the prosecution of the killing of George Floyd, state officials announced Sunday evening.
At a 7 p.m. press conference, Ellison said that his office will work with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s office. Freeman’s office announced charges against former officer Derek Chauvin earlier this week. The other three officers at the scene haven’t been charged.
“Tonight we’re not prepared to talk about what the charges will be,” Ellison said. “I want to let you know that we are pursuing justice. We are pursuing truth … and we’re pursuing accountability.”
While saying he would work with the county attorney’s office, Ellison made clear that he will have final say in the case.
In announcing Ellison’s role, Walz praised the attorney general as someone who, while serving with Walz in Congress, “understood the systemic issues that were holding us back. His voice was loud. … This decision is one that I feel takes us in the direction to start getting the justice for George Floyd.”
Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. His first hearing is set for June 8. Chauvin was moved Sunday night from the Hennepin County jail to Oak Park Heights prison.
Curfew Sunday night
Walz extended the curfew Sunday for Minneapolis and St. Paul that he and public safety leaders attributed to stamping down the looting, arson and mayhem that ripped through the cities for two days prior.
Walz, who was joined by state law enforcement leaders during a Sunday morning press briefing, called the mass deployment of the Minnesota National Guard, state police, local officers and county sheriff's deputies and corrections officials a success.
“We had no fires,” he said. “We had no loss of life.”
There were at least 15 civil unrest arrests in St. Paul Saturday night into Sunday morning according to the city’s police department. The majority of those arrested were from St. Paul or Minneapolis.
In Hennepin County, 73 people were cited with curfew violations and there were 52 protest related arrests — which included arrests in connection to riot, weapons violations and assault. The majority of people cited and arrested were from Minnesota.
The response that started with the 8 p.m curfew Saturday and continued into Sunday morning was far more forceful than previous nights. Walz said repeatedly the actions of law enforcement was on his order and any criticism falls to him.
Sunday’s curfew started at 8 p.m. and will expire at 6 a.m Monday. It applies to only Minneapolis and St. Paul. Several other cities in the state had already enacted curfews in their jurisdictions that extend until 8 a.m. Monday.
Freeway closures that had been in effect Saturday night are also in place again into early Monday morning — though the closures were more extensive than originally planned.