Trucker Plans to Fight Back in Wake of Minneapolis Bridge Incident, Many Ready to Join Him
Minneapolis, MN – A New Jersey trucker who became a household name within the grassroots trucking community during the recent battle with brokers is taking on a new fight… and this time, he says it is about something much bigger than low rates.
In recent months, Rick Santiago has become an influential voice representing thousands of truckers and devoted social media followers.
Multiple social media videos made to expose the alleged abuses by freight brokers during the COVID-19 pandemic went viral within the trucking community, and even helped propel an historic three-week protest in Washington D.C.
He’s beloved in some corners of the trucking industry and reviled in others.
However, Santiago tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN) his goal is always to “help the truck drivers of America.”
In the wake of the miraculously bizarre incident that took place last Sunday along Interstate 35 in Minneapolis, the social media firebrand is now setting his sights on another mission.
Santiago is coming to the defense of 35-year-old Minnesota owner operator, Bogdan Vechirko, who unintentionally drove his semi-tanker into an estimated crowd of 5,000 protesters before being pulled from the rig and physically assaulted.
“This isn’t about rates [no more], this is about our rights,” Santiago declared in a social media video on Friday. “We have a right to stand our ground and defend ourselves.”
Santiago says he is outraged that protesters are demanding criminal charges be filed despite traffic camera video proving Vechirko lawfully accessed the interstate, and authorities determining he had no intent to harm anyone, nor did he harm anyone.
In fact, as TNN first reported on Friday, protesters who attacked Vechirko will not face any charges while a new petition demanding Vechirko face charges has been launched.
It has gained more than 5,000 signatures in just a few days.
“What these protesters are now demanding is that he be charged with reckless endangerment and I have a big problem with this,” Santiago fumed. “Our rights are truly being stripped from us. We basically have to sit there and let them beat our trucks, yank us out, beat us, and kill us because we have no protection now.”
Though Minnesota authorities released Vechirko without charges on Tuesday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman informed this week that the investigation was ongoing and charges could still be filed.
Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington also hinted that a possible charge could be forthcoming.
“We are certainly getting to the right charge that holds him accountable,” Harrington said at a press conference this week.
“I swear to God I will call on every single truck in America to shut down if he is charged! Why? Because then we don’t have any rights at all,” Santiago responded.
Despite the overwhelming evidence clearing Vechirko of criminal intent or negligence, authorities did indicate he was “likely speeding” at 70 mph before the protesters fully came into view on the bridge.
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Click HERE to get more of TNN’s coverage of Vechirko.
Santiago believes authorities could be stretching to find a charge in order to simply appease those who are demanding Vechirko face consequences.
“What is happening now is domestic terrorism. So, basically what they are saying is if this guy isn’t charged [then] the city of Minneapolis will be under siege,” Santiago asserted.
Also in recent days, those seeking to smear Vechirko have labeled him a “white supremacist.”
They largely base that claim on campaign finance records which reveal that, in 2019, he contributed $100 to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
In 2018, he made two contributions totaling $215 to the Republican National Committee.
Santiago calls the allegation “ridiculous.”
He also blasted trucking industry groups, along with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), for not speaking up in support of Vechirko.
Santiago made his intentions clear.
“If this guy is charged with so much as a misdemeanor… I will make sure that thousands of trucks show up in Minnesota.”
Since posting the video about Vechirko, it has racked up more than 150,000 views in about 24 hours.
Santiago tells TNN he immediately began receiving messages from supporters promising solidarity and commitments to join him in the fight.
Make sure to stay logged on to TransportationNation.com for the latest developments on this story.
WATCH Santiago’s video below. (Advisory: contains strong language)