Car Plows Through Crowd Of Protesters In Newport Beach

NEWPORT BEACH, CA — A number of Black Lives Matter protests against police violence took place in Newport Beach Wednesday, punctuated by a frightening incident in which a car drove through a crowd of peaceful protesters.

Around 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, a white Mini Cooper sped through the crowd at the Newport Pier, coming close to hitting multiple people, Newport Beach police spokesman Heather Rangel told Patch.

The car made contact with a bicyclist but no one was injured. Don Wallace, a Newport Beach man in his 50s, was arrested and booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Rangel said.

Protesters said they feared the driver would kill them.

“The rage on his face, he was determined to kill somebody," witness Brandon Yamawaki told Fox. “He went right through me, I threw my bike in between me and the car before it hit me. I looked to the right and he kept spinning down and there were three children right in the way.”

The day's first protest began around noon at the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway. Videos shared on social media showed demonstrators holding signs and chanting George Floyd's name while passing cars honked in support.

The number of expected protesters at each event wasn't known, but they appeared to be gaining traction on social media, and all indications Wednesday morning were that the protests will be peaceful, according to a statement from Newport Beach police Chief Jon Lewis.

The events are as scheduled:

  • Noon at MacArthur Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway;

  • 2 p.m. at the Newport Pier;

  • 5 p.m. at San Miguel Drive and Avocado Avenue;

  • 5 p.m. at Back Bay View Park, Jamboree Road and Pacific Coast Highway.

In addition to the four events in Newport Beach, Lewis said at least six other protests are planned in cities in Orange County, including nearby Irvine.

Protests have largely taken place in white, affluent parts of the Southland, rather than majority-minority areas — a deliberate strategy, according to one organizer.

“We want to go to places of white affluence so that the pain and outrage that we feel can be put right in their faces,” Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter leader, told the Los Angeles Times.

Lewis said authorities hope to avoid any escalation during Wednesday's protests.

"Our mission will be to keep the peace and ensure the protection of Constitutional rights of all members of the public," Lewis said. "We intend to use crowd-management strategies and tactics to mitigate the possibility of lawful crowds escalating into an unlawful assembly. Appropriate enforcement action will be taken swiftly when necessary to maintain order."

Officers from nearby cities and Orange County sheriff's deputies will he deployed along side Newport Beach police throughout the day and "additional personnel have been placed on standby and will be utilized as needed," Lewis said.

About 8:25 p.m., the department tweeted its gratitude to residents.

"We are thankful for the overwhelming support of the Newport Beach community," the tweet said. "It is our expectation that by communicating with those who wish to protest within the city of Newport Beach, we will be able to ensure a safe environment for everyone involved."

The state has been swept in recent days by protests over the police killing of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd, 46, begged for air.

City News Service contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on the Newport Beach-Corona Del Mar Patch