SEE IT: Driver Hurls Firecrackers At Black Lives Matter Protesters
An impatient driver stuck behind thousands of cyclists protesting against police brutality on Saturday hurled firecrackers from his truck on a Williamsburg Bridge ramp at protesters below — yet another example of violence carried out by drivers that police overlook.
“Police were right there, they saw this happening and didn’t come up the ramp to do anything about it,” said Blake Hyatt, one of the protesters who witnessed the incident shortly after 6 p.m.
Thousands of bikers participating in the fourth ride organized by Street Riders had just left the Barclays Center and were making their way towards the Williamsburg Bridge to head into Manhattan. They were near Roebling Street when a still-unidentified driver started launching the firecrackers from his truck directly at them below — a scary incident all caught on video by Bianca Vrionis, who was also sitting in her car on the expressway.
“This guy is throwing firecrackers at protesters over the bridge…holy shit. Black Lives [Matter] protesters. Holy fucking shit,” Vrionis says in the video, which she posted to Instagram.
One of Street Riders’ organizers told Streetsblog he saw a firecracker land near a kid riding with his dad as part of the protest (this video from carbqueen shows cyclists confronting the driver, and this video from Jeff Novich has audio of the explosions at roughly :09 and :37).
— Jeff Novich ? (@jeffnovich) June 28, 2020
“I see stuff falling — it almost dropped on a child. I hear the pops and realize what it is. He could have hurt somebody,” said Antonio Garcia.
Garcia said he and some of the protesters told police what was happening, but that cops blamed the cyclists because they were causing traffic.
“The craziest part is that we’re telling the police down there that somebody is throwing firecrackers, and they’re like, ‘You know why that happened,’ So you’re gonna give an excuse to do that because you shouldn’t be protesting and blocking traffic that’s why people are doing that,” said Garcia.
Since the cops didn’t try to stop the man from potentially hurting protesters with the explosives, Hyatt, Garcia, and about five others rode up the overpass to try to de-escalate the situation with the driver. But the maniacal motorist didn’t want to listen, and instead started yelling at the cyclists.
“He’s throwing fireworks over the edge of the ramp, throwing firecrackers in the middle of us. He was screaming about it, saying we don’t have the right to hold things up, he doesn’t give a shit about black lives,” said Hyatt.
Garcia said he repeatedly asked the driver why he was so upset. Finally, the driver said he was late to visit his grandmother — and then sprayed him in the face with bear mace. Garcia said he understood the driver’s frustration, but it still was not an excuse to try to injure people for exercising their right to protest against police violence towards black people.
“The system is broken if people feel it’s okay to harm somebody,” he said.
A few seconds later in the video, the driver then jumps out of his truck when one of the protesters starts taking photos of his license plate, and tries to kick — but misses — the cyclist in the head.
“He actually hit one of us, and ripped his plate off,” said Hyatt.
Hyatt said he and the others were worried about the driver’s willingness to use his car as a weapon against the protesters if he so readily dropped the firecrackers down on them with impunity.
“One of the things especially scary about it was he had already demonstrated a willingness to assault us with firecrackers — was he going to do the same thing with his truck?” said Hyatt.
It’s not lost on Hyatt that the person recording the altercation, who supported the protesters, was also momentarily stuck in traffic — just like everyone else in the neighborhoods through which previous rides have gone, where the majority of people honk and cheer in support.
— Good Idea Dave (@DaveCoIon) June 20, 2020
In the end, the man drove off and no one was hurt, after the protesters successfully de-escalated the situation with no help from police.
“I’m so proud of the people around that handled it the right way without getting into a physical altercation,” Garcia said.
Saturday’s incident is just the latest amid a pattern of drivers — including those in blue — using vehicles as weapons. Twice in nearly as many days earlier this month, drivers in Queens tried to mow down Black Lives Matter protesters. And on May 30, police similarly accelerated into a crowd of protestors in Brooklyn — an incident caught on video that was decried by many elected officials, including Rep. Alexandria-Ocasia Cortez. The incident is now under investigation, though NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said last week that it did not violate the NYPD’s use-of-force policy.
NYPD officers just drove an SUV into a crowd of human beings. They could‘ve killed them, &we don’t know how many they injured.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 31, 2020
Garcia and other members of Street Riders are searching for the driver on their own through social media. Police did not respond to a request for comment and would not even say if the attack on the protesters was being investigated.