Above Photo: A protest march in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access pipeline in San Francisco, California, August 24, 2016. (Photo: Peg Hunter / Flickr)
A witness described it as a hate crime and said the driver yelled obscenities at a crowd protesting about Columbus Day and the North Dakota oil pipeline
Reno police are investigating reports of a pickup truck plowing into a group of Native American rights demonstrators after dramatic video emerged showing the vehicle’s occupants arguing with activists, revving the engine and then speeding into the crowd.
Police chief Jason Soto said the 18-year-old male pickup driver and 17-year-old passenger contacted police three minutes after Monday evening’s incident beneath the famous arch with the Nevada city’s slogan, Biggest Little City in the World. The driver stopped several blocks away, and both he and a passenger in the truck are said to be cooperating with police.
A 59-year-old woman has been hospitalized with injuries that are not life-threatening, and three others were hurt.
Police say about 40 people were blocking Virginia Street in front of the city’s famous arch on Monday night. A Facebook Live video of the protest shows a pickup truck revving its engine in front of the crowd. Several protesters confront the driver and the passenger before the truck drives through the crowd.
Footage obtained by the Associated Press shows a group of protesters surrounding the truck, including a person holding a baby. Some were shouting “Stand your ground” as protesters explained to the driver that the vehicle had to go in a different direction.
One man shouted “Hey, hey, hey” as the driver sped ahead, causing many in the crowd to scream as some appear to be knocked over.
Quanah Brightman, executive director of United Native Americans Inc, told the Reno Gazette-Journal the incident was a “hate crime”.
Soto said investigators were still combing through a great deal of video that witnesses shot mostly on cellular phones. He is urging others to come forward with any video or photographs they might have.
Soto would not say on Tuesday whether the case is being investigated as a hate crime but described some of the footage as “very horrifying”.
The driver was not immediately arrested after the Monday evening incident.
“They drove by once as we were walking toward the arch, yelling obscenities,” said Taylor Wayman, 27, who said he was not an official member of the sponsoring groups but decided to attend the rally.
“I heard the driver ask one of the protesters, ‘Do you want me to kill your homies?’ and that really set everybody off,” Wayman told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Mike Graham, founder of the Oklahoma-based United Native American Association, which held the rally, said he planned to meet with Reno police on Tuesday to find out more about the incident and why the driver has not been arrested.
The activists were protesting about Columbus Day and some held signs criticizing the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says poses a threat to its water supply and could damage its cultural heritage in North Dakota.
Reno’s mayor, Hillary Schieve, said in a statement on Tuesday: “This incident is troublesome and saddens us deeply. I take these matters very seriously, and I believe they must be investigated thoroughly and promptly.”