Driver pleads not guilty to driving into BLM protest in Manchester

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MANCHESTER — A Pawlet man has pleaded not guilty to accusations he drove through a crowd of protesters during a local Black Lives Matter rally, endangering people.

Dustin Tobin, 28, pleaded not guilty Monday to two charges: negligent vehicle operation and reckless endangerment. Each is a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum jail sentence of one year.

Authorities allege that in the late afternoon of June 7, while a Black Lives Matter demonstration was taking place in the town roundabout, Tobin drove through kneeling protesters. Manchester police said his pickup truck entered the roundabout after driving on the opposite lane in order to get around stopped traffic, according to state court documents.

Surveillance video captured the scene near the intersection of Depot and Main streets, Manchester police officer Ryan Matteson said in a statement of probable cause.

"There were several people in the roadway advising that the truck had just driven through as people were kneeling in the roadway and almost hit people," Matteson said. No injuries were reported.

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Less than 10 minutes earlier, the video reportedly showed that Tobin's truck had come through the roadway while protesters were still in the center island. Witnesses reported that he'd made an obscene gesture out the window while driving around the roundabout twice.

When officers arrived, they found about 30 people kneeling in the roadway. Tobin remained on the scene after calling police to report that a protester had thrown water at his vehicle, according to Matteson's statement.

Tobin told police he wasn't racist, the police affidavit reads. He apparently said he was just trying to get through the intersection and had made the crude hand gesture in response to a comment someone had made.

Tobin is serving as his own attorney in the case before the Bennington Superior Court. He is free from jail on conditions and is scheduled to return to court Sept. 21.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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