Man charged in Friday night hit-and-run at Winnipeg protest against pandemic restrictions

Winnipeg police have arrested and charged a man accused of hitting four men who were participating in a protest against pandemic restrictions with his SUV before speeding away on Friday night.

Driver, 42, facing charges of hitting 4 protesters, leaving the scene of the collision

Winnipeg police and paramedics were at Broadway and Memorial Boulevard on Friday night to deal with a hit-and-run incident. (CBC)

Winnipeg police have arrested and charged a man accused of hitting four men who were participating in a protest against pandemic restrictions with his SUV before speeding away on Friday night.

A man driving a white Jeep travelling westbound plowed through a group of protesters on the legislative grounds, hitting four men at about 9:50 p.m., Const. Rob Carver said at a news conference on Saturday.

Three sustained minor injuries that didn't require medical attention, but one was taken to hospital, treated and released, he said.

"It's pretty miraculous that nobody sustained any serious injuries," Carver said.

The accused drove away from the legislature at high speed, running red lights, and about 40 minutes later was arrested just west of the city in Headingley after a brief struggle, police said.

A man, 42, from Headingley is facing a number of charges, including four counts of assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

He is in police custody.

Carver said he couldn't speak to the man's motivations for allegedly striking the protesters, but said the driver spoke to officers as he was being arrested.

"Some comments were made by the accused that tends to suggest this was not specifically about the [vaccine] mandates," Carver said. "He wasn't for or against any of the general views that are floating around this country."

WARNING: Video contains graphic footage:

Winnipeg hit-and-run caught on camera

1 year ago
Duration 0:46
Caution: This video may be distressing to some viewers. Video posted to Twitter by @aaroniscloser.

A video circulating on social media shows a person driving a white SUV in the area of the protest and then into the crowd of protesters. 

A person is seen being struck and then standing up afterwards.

People gathered outside the Manitoba Legislative Building Friday morning to protest pandemic restrictions and a federal vaccine mandate for cross-border Canadian truckers. The protest continued into Saturday. (CBC)

The public information officer told media that police across the country view protests such as these as "potentially volatile."

"There are strong opinions being expressed and there are a broad range. There's polarization here. Anytime you have a situation like that, there's a potential for tempers to flare and possibly some violence," Carver said.

There have been no other incidents of violence reported to police, he said.

Political leaders in Winnipeg called for people to stay calm.

Prior to the announcement by police on Saturday afternoon, Mayor Brian Bowman posted a statement reminding Winnipeggers that Canadians have the right to protest peacefully without injury.

Later on Saturday, Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said that right is "integral to our society" and thanked police for their work.

Rally continuing Saturday

Meanwhile, the protest convoy continued Saturday calling for an end to pandemic restrictions and federal vaccine mandates for truckers.

Convoy protesters offered sympathy to the four men hit by the SUV.

"This is a peaceful freedom rally and we don't want anyone getting hurt," said Kris Lapointe, who took part on Saturday.

Shirley Latinecz, who carried a poster that read "end all mandates," said the crash was "very unfortunate."

"We don't truly know what happened yet, so we're going to let the police answer that," she said.

A truck towing a camper trailer blocks Memorial Boulevard a couple of blocks north of the Manitoba Legislature on Friday morning, where a demonstration is happening that includes truckers protesting federal vaccine mandates. (CBC)

Police say traffic on Broadway is congested between Donald and Osborne streets, in both directions, because of the rally.

Those who must drive in the area should expect delays, police said in a tweet.