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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Breaking news

A man drove through a crowd of protesters Saturday afternoon on Main Street, according to eyewitnesses.

The protesters were part of an offshoot demonstration that happened after more than 1,000 people marched from Depot Park to Bo Diddley Community Plaza Saturday morning to protest the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a black man, died Monday after a white ex-Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

William John Connelly, 64, was arrested and charged with six counts of aggravated assault after driving into the crowd of demonstrators, according to a Gainesville Police arrest report. He was released on $30,000 bond Sunday.

GPD Lt. Robert Fanelli said he saw the aftermath of the incident.

Protesters threw water bottles at the car, chasing it while it drove away, Fanelli said. The driver drove four blocks, then looped around to return to the scene. The driver told police he returned because he was afraid and was looking for an officer, Fanelli said.

Fanelli said he spoke with six witnesses and victims after the incident. Witnesses told him that the suspect drove toward the crowd after passing two cars on a road protesters were blocking.

According to Fanelli, two or three of the witnesses said someone on a bike was hit by the vehicle. No one has come forward to GPD about being hit by the car, Fanelli said.

Witnesses told Fanelli the driver appeared to be holding a gun. He said a silver semi automatic pistol was found with the driver, but no shots were fired.

GPD Chief Tony Jones also confirmed no shots were fired.

“That’s a weapon itself,” Jones said. “That car is a weapon.”

Sam Houle, a 21-year-old UF graduate, was participating in the offshoot demonstration when the incident 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.

The driver shouted incoherently at protesters from his window, Houle said, and he looked red in the face and angry. Houle said he wasn’t sure if the man was agitated by the March for Our Freedom movement.

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The investigation is ongoing.

Contact Tristan at Follow him on Twitter @TristanDWood.

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