'We cannot hurt him' plea as driver pulled from truck that sped into Minneapolis protest

UPDATE: Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington confirmed Monday it appears Sunday's incident was not an intentional act. The driver was already on the freeway when it closed and did not go around any barricades. 

“We cannot hurt him.”

Those were the words of one person among a sea of thousands protesting the police-involved death of George Floyd on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis when a tanker truck drove through the crowd just before 6 p.m. Sunday. Dozens of people swarmed the cab of the truck and pulled the driver out, beating him on the ground.

But the words and actions of a few appear to have saved the driver’s life.

“We cannot hurt him,” the voice behind a Facebook stream said. “It defeats our purpose. Stop. Stop. Stop.”

Minnesota law enforcement officials said there have been no reports of protesters hurt in the incident. The driver was taken to the hospital by police, but later released and arrested.

Speaking a short time after the incident, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said they were working to determine any motive behind the act. 

The truck was able to get onto I-35W after state authorities closed that section of the highway in anticipation of further unrest Sunday night. Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington says the truck was already on the highway as officers were closing it down. Harrington says the driver did not go through any barriers.

The march honoring George Floyd, started just after 4 p.m. Sunday, departed the stadium and headed into downtown toward the Hennepin County Government Center. The group then moved across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, down University Avenue and onto Interstate 35W.

Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested Friday in the death of George Floyd, and was later charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.