A prominent Minnesota lawmaker has offered a strong words in defense of a tanker truck driver who was charged last week after a May incident involving interstate protesters.

Trucker Faces Felony Charge For Driving Into Protest On I-35

On October 22, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that he would charge 35 year old truck driver Bogdan Vechirko with a felony count of threats of violence and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation.

The charges stem from a March 31, 2020, incident during which Vechirko was swarmed by hundreds of protesters after he drove onto the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. He was initially physically attacked by protesters before bystanders and police came to his defense. His wallet and cellphone were stolen during the incident.

Vechirko later told police that he was attempting to make a delivery and had not intended to drive into the protest.

According to the criminal complaint, Freeman said that “the thorough investigation showed that Vechirko wanted to scare people out of his path” and that “investigators also spoke to numerous people who said that they thought they were going to be struck or killed by the truck.” Freeman’s office also said that one person suffered from scrapes and abrasions to her leg while trying to get out of the way of the truck.

Minnesota State Rep. Stands Up For Embattled Truck Driver

Soon after the charges against Vechirko were announced, Rep. Cal Bahr, R-East Bethel, released a scathing response backing up the truck driver and calling the charges “disgusting.”

From a news release issued by Bahr’s office:

Today, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that the truck driver who drove onto the Interstate 35W Bridge during a protest in May has been criminally charged. The driver’s name is Bogdan Vechirko. Rep. Cal Bahr (Republican-East Bethel) offered his reaction.

“This is outrageous,” said Rep. Bahr. “I know Bogdan, and Bogdan should not be charged with these crimes. He brought his truck to a stop before anyone was harmed. For some reason, everyone is mad at Bogdan for driving on that interstate. Let me be clear, he was engaged in commerce on an interstate highway, that’s what a trucker does. Moreover, it is a violation of federal law for any pedestrian to be on an interstate highway. If anyone is charged it should be the protestors and enforcement agencies that allowed this to happen!”

Bogdan Vechirko has been charged with threats of violence, a felony, and criminal vehicular operation, a gross misdemeanor. 

“I have held a commercial driver’s license since the federalization of commercial licenses,” said Rep. Bahr. “I know firsthand what it takes to stop one of these machines. The fact that no one was killed or maimed is a testament to Bogdan’s prowess behind the wheel. Over.”

Rep. Bahr concluded, “After Bogdan came to a stop, the rioters pulled him from his truck and mercilessly attacked him and his vehicle. Frankly, the only person harmed on that bridge was Bogdan, yet he is being charged? Mike Freeman should be charging the assailants. These actions are straight out of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Crime is being lauded and hardworking, bluecollar folks are prosecuted. Disgusting.” 

In July, Bahr sent letters to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Governor Tim Walz and others asking for the withholding for federal transportation funding to Minnesota if highway protests were allowed to continue.

Vechirko is set to appear in court November 10, 2020.