Police are investigating the incident, which was part of a climate change demonstration
This is the moment a lorry is driven into a crowd of protesting schoolchildren in the centre of Bristol, sending screaming students to jump away from its path.
The incident, which took place on last Friday afternoon during the ‘School Strike for Climate Change’ demonstration, has prompted police action.
When a shorter version of the video was shared by the climate change campaigners, it went viral and created a huge backlash against the managers of the local scaffolding firm whose lorry was involved.
No one was hurt in the incident, but the police said they are investigating reports of an alleged assault and dangerous driving.
The protest last Friday lunchtime and afternoon saw more than a thousand young people – mainly students or school children and parents and young children – gather on College Green.
It was part of a global ‘school strike’, which saw students walk out of lessons in protest at the world’s governments not effectively tackling the climate crisis which has seen the UN warn that if carbon emissions aren’t cut drastically by 2030, it will be too late to save the planet.
After a rally on College Green, hundreds of young protesters moved to block the road at College Green, with some sitting down on the tarmac.
Traffic backed up coming down Park Street and the video begins by showing a van driver, realising the crowd was not going to move, doing a U-turn and heading back up the hill.
Behind, a scaffolding lorry is next in the line, and is then driven forward into the crowd, with the horn sounding, prompting screams from many in the crowd.
A number of people attempt to stand in front of the lorry as the rest of the crowd near the lorry move to one side.
Both the passenger and the driver are seen to get out of the cab briefly, and a couple of times the driver edges the lorry forward.
A number of policemen come to try to block the lorry, and at one stage a police horse is brought over.
A scaffolding lorry in a crowd of young Climate Change protestors at College Green It is claimed that one of the protesters who stepped up to the driver’s window and attempted to stop the driver was pushed. Eye-witnesses said eventually, the lorry was turned around and headed back up Park Street.
The protesters later moved on from College Green and marched around the city centre.
Tom Dalton, 19, was the student who was allegedly pushed by the driver after leading efforts to stop the lorry.
“The protests were peaceful and the majority of participants were children,” he said. “As the truck was coming towards the crowd I was thinking that I am going to stop it.
“There was a lot of adrenaline and I am very happy that I was there and able to prevent something worse happening,” he added.
Mr Dalton said that the police took statements and were investigating the incident and the assault, but he had opted to take the community resolution option so the driver would not face a possible prosecution.
“This type of aggressive behaviour is always unacceptable,” said Mr Dalton.
“I sincerely apologize for any disruption caused to your daily life but this is an emergency. It is important for drivers to remember that vehicles are weapons capable of causing severe harm, brandishing one so carelessly particularly around children is reckless,” he added.
Prof Colin Davis, a Bristol University professor who is part of the Extinction Rebellion movement, and was arrested for spraying chalk paint on the Environment Agency headquarters during a protest last year, was one of the people in front of the lorry, standing with Mr Dalton at the time.
“We’d only exchanged a few words when we became aware of a lorry that seemed determined not to stop,” he said.
“The driver had already driven forward and caused a few people to take evasive action. I was worried that he might just keep going and run into some kids.
“It seemed like a good idea to stand directly in front of him to try to get his attention and let him know that there was no way through.
“This seemed to antagonise him even more, and he moved forward a bit further. By this stage I was outraged at the way he was using his lorry as a weapon, and I think Tom must have felt the same way— he briefly put his hand on the lorry and shouted at the driver, who responded by jumping out and quite violently pushing Tom. Fortunately a police officer acted swiftly to intervene,” he added.
“It was fortunate that the police were there, and I thought they did a great job of overseeing an unplanned, spontaneous action. And the youth stayed in good humour throughout and their passion and energy was really inspiring,” he added.
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police said they were investigating two separate alleged offences.
“A man is due to be interviewed by police following an incident during the climate change protest in Bristol on Friday, February 15,” a spokesperson said.
“A van was driven towards the protesters on College Green at about 1pm. Police subsequently, on Monday, had a report that a man had got out of the vehicle and pushed one of the protestors, a 19-year-old man. No injury was caused.
“Officers investigating offences of common assault and driving without due care have identified a man in his 30s.
“He is due to be interviewed voluntarily. Enquiries continue. Anyone with information which could help can contact officers through www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/contact, or by calling 101, quoting reference 5219036179,” she added.
This week, a short video showing some of the incident was uploaded onto social media, together with captions which named the scaffolding company and called on people to contact them about the incident.
The lorry was from a Bristol scaffolding company called Clarke Bros. Its staff said they had two days of constant phone calls, with lots of abuse, including one caller who described them as ‘terrorists’.
Boss Wes Morgan said the incident should not have happened, and the driver had been suspended pending an internal company inquiry.
He said the lorry’s internal data collection revealed the lorry was travelling at 4mph when it approached the crowd.
“We all know what’s happened,” he said. “I have suspended him until I get to the bottom of this.
“One of the people there jumped up and pulled his bag away and smashed his radio and it got a bit nasty.
“No one was hurt – he wasn’t going fast enough – but we’re trying to deal with it internally in the best way we can. We’re going to have to sit down and discuss his future employment,” he added.
The video going viral has impacted on the business – with people phoning up.
“It was one of those moments that’s happened, and the video has gone viral now. One person called to say that we were no better than terrorists – it’s got quite nasty what people are saying,” he added.