Three mile bridge gulf breeze fl

Pensacola protester carried on car hood over bridge speaks out

Jake Newby

Pensacola News Journal

Published 1:45 PM EDT Jun 7, 2020

The Black Lives Matter protester who was carried on the hood of an SUV for three miles across the Pensacola Bay Bridge as protesters were lining up Saturday to block traffic says he would like to see the driver of the vehicle arrested.

"He threatened the lives of everybody on that line, " Cantonment resident Jason Uphaus told the News Journal on Sunday. "He had to drive around stopped traffic and through people to get to the bridge and he didn't care about any of that."

Police said Saturday that they spoke to both parties after the driver stopped on the other side of the bridge in Gulf Breeze. As of Sunday, the driver has not been arrested. Pensacola police said the investigation is still open and the driver's name cannot be released.

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Cellphone videos from drivers stopped in traffic on the bridge show Uphaus, a 36-year-old white man, riding on the hood of a silver Ford Flex — at one point breaking the driver's side mirror — as protesters made their way from the Graffiti Bridge to Bayfront Parkway to stop traffic shortly before 1 p.m.

The videos do not show how the altercation began, but Uphaus said the incident started when the driver, who he described as a white man in his 20s, began accelerating and braking on Bayfront Parkway close to him and a few other protesters. Uphaus said he and the protesters were a couple dozen feet in front of the line of protesters who were beginning to lock arms in the middle of the road.

Uphaus said he was bumped by the driver and felt like he had no choice but to lean onto the hood of the car.

"It's not like I did it because I just wanted to, because that would be completely insane, " Uphaus said. "The reason I was on the hood is because after he bumped me the first time, he accelerated. He decided, 'I'm going to drive through you one way or another.' At that point, I didn't feel like I had a way to get around. It was either go under or go up."

Uphaus was carried the entire length of the bridge on the car's hood. He estimated the vehicle reached 50 miles per hour at one point and said he grabbed at the driver's side mirror in an effort to force the driver to stop.

"The idea came into my head to tear into everything I could get my hands on — windshield wipers and all that kind of stuff — but I thought that might escalate the situation enough to where if he wants to get me off the car bad enough, he might pick up speed and slam on the brakes, " Uphaus said. "The only thing I could do was hold on and just hope he comes to his senses and says, 'This is stupid, ' and stops."

Uphaus said a Gulf Breeze police vehicle was waiting on the median on the other side of the bridge, at which point the driver stopped and Uphaus climbed off the car.

Uphaus was transported by EMS to a local hospital. He said no bones were broken, but his right knee and his left shoulder were in pretty bad shape and he thinks he will be recovering at home for a few days, at least.

"My knee is the size of a grapefruit this morning, " he said.

Over the last week, Uphaus has visited Graffiti Bridge multiple times in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said that in his mind, the role he played in attending the protest was that of a "background observer."

"As needed, I wanted to support in any way I could, " he said. "As we've seen all over the country, we've had a lot of incidents. Specifically against black protesters, so if something was going to go down, I would try to put myself in the way."

Uphaus said that while at the hospital, a PPD police officer informed him he would be held for questioning, but Uphaus said nothing came of that. He returned home Saturday evening.

Jake Newby can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8538.