Protesters Block Highway Leading to Wreck with Semi, Owner Now Receiving Death Threats
Madison, WI – A Wisconsin business owner is coming under attack after one of his semi-trucks collided with a vehicle actively involved in impeding the flow of traffic this week on a busy highway.
Pickett’s Paving has been in Leonard Pickett’s family for over 45 years.
In fact, it was Pickett’s grandfather who founded the Baraboo, WI company in 1973.
Since that time, Pickett’s Paving has grown into a respected residential and commercial paving company, serving the entire state of Wisconsin as well as clients in Florida.
However, following an incident with one of his trucks on Tuesday afternoon, his company has experienced something he never thought possible.
“I’ve been called a racist, bigot, had people say, ‘I’m gonna kill you,'” he told Transportation Nation Network (TNN) in an exclusive interview.
The harassment stems from an incident with one of his trucks that occurred in the westbound lanes of the Beltline in Madison on Tuesday.
Pickett told TNN two of his workers were traveling on the Beltline in a 2000 Peterbilt 378 to a job site around 3 p.m. when they found themselves caught up in a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Pickett described the event organizers as blocking all westbound lanes and traveling at approximately 15 miles per hour, which was confirmed by footage of the protest caught on a traffic cam.
While that particular area of the Beltline is three lanes, protesting motorists can also be seen traveling along both the left and right shoulders, attempting to prevent traffic from bypassing the protest.
When Pickett was notified by his employees they were caught in the traffic, he said he gave them clear instruction: “avoid trouble.”
“Do not stop, don’t let them pull you out of the vehicle, just try to get around them.”
And that’s exactly what they did, according to Pickett.
His clear instruction stemmed from his memory of the 1992 L.A. Riots, which led to truck driver Reginald Denny being brutally attacked and beaten on live television.
Most recently, he said, he thought of 35-year-old Minnesota trucker, Bogden Vechirko, who was pulled from his truck and viciously assaulted after he unintentionally drove his tanker truck into a group of nearly 5,000 protesters who were blocking Interstate 35W in Minneapolis.
After reaching the front of the protest and attempting to bypass, Pickett told TNN his truck collided with one of the lead vehicles, which swerved into the rig’s path.
Photos from the scene reveal a dark gray Toyota Highlander with the words “Black Lives” and “F— the Police” written on it, along with a “Got Privilege?” bumper sticker, with extensive damage to the passenger side as a result of the collision.
Ironically, a protester can be seen in photos giving her account to a policeman while standing next to the damaged SUV and semi-truck.
Not surprisingly, accounts of the situation vary between protesters, who claim it was the truck driver that intentionally rammed the SUV.
Both of Pickett’s employees say it was the SUV that intentionally swerved into the semi’s path.
Thankfully, the truck’s passenger recorded the incident on his cell phone.
So far, no one has been arrested or cited in the incident.
When asked if he believed the driver of the SUV was trying to cause an accident, Pickett replied: “I think they (the protesters) were trying to block anyone from passing, regardless of the outcome.”
Pickett’s Peterbilt also sustained damage to the front driver’s side.
He estimates repairs will be between $10,000-15,000, as the truck needs a new hood, fenders, as well as being re-painted.
Additionally, the front axle was knocked back approximately 4 inches, which needs to be fixed as well.
“This is my prime season,” he said, noting he is now without one of his dump trucks until the repairs are made.
“It’s frustrating,” he told TNN. “They’re making up lies, trying to abdicate what they’ve done and trying to cry wolf.”
In his frustration, he took to social media, posting photos from the scene.
“As any freedom loving American should be, we are all for our Constitutional Rights, we strongly agree that we should have the right to peacefully protest,” he wrote on his business page.
“But when you take your protest to the highway and try to cause people to get into an accident that is where I can’t agree with you any more. You could of easily taken someone’s life over your stupidity.”
The post drew the ire of many, racking up a couple hundred comments quickly.
In fact, many blamed Pickett’s company for the accident.
“Your driver could have killed someone, you miserable excuse for a human. Can’t wait to read about the charges which he’ll be facing!” one comment read.
“Congrats, you have just shot your own business into the ground with ignorance and violence … Take your ignorance and white supremacy elsewhere,” said another.
Pickett said he only deleted a few of the “real nasty ones” — after all, his children, ages 10-20, can view the post — but reaffirmed his belief in the First Amendment.
However, he noted how particularly surprised he was by commenters that “put so many words in my mouth that I didn’t say.”
He has since been told by a business associate he is now “a wanted man in Dane County,” due to his social media post.
Further, since the incident and subsequent social media post, he has instructed his office manager to stop answering calls, as threats have been directed towards her as well.
Pickett tells TNN he has been proactive in the safety of his store and employees by installing sophisticated video and security cameras on his property and documenting each threatening voicemail and corresponding phone number in order to provide it to investigators.
He is currently exploring his legal options — including suing the Mayor’s Office — for “neglect and not instructing officers to protect the roads,” as well as allowing “protesters to run rampant.”
Pickett made clear that he does not fault the police and their handling of the situation.
“Their hands are tied,” he said, referring to the orders being given to them by Madison’s mayor, Democrat Satya Rhodes-Conway.
As for the driver of the Peterbilt, it was only his second day on the job with Pickett’s Paving.
The driver expressed fear he would be fired following the incident.
Not to worry though.
Pickett stands behind his employee and his company’s values, stating he is “absolutely not in trouble.”
TNN will bring you updates to this story as they become available.
Photos courtesy Leonard Pickett