Black Lives Matter Protest Turns Violent In St. Paul

Jul 11, 2016
Originally published on July 11, 2016 6:38 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The Twin Cities are still reeling in the aftermath of the death of Philando Castile. He is the 32-year-old black man, the school cafeteria supervisor who was killed by a police officer after a traffic stop last week. Over the weekend, protesters shut down a main highway in St. Paul ending in violence and the arrest of 50 protesters. Tonight the city attorney announced rioting charges against 46 of them. NPR's Adrian Florido reports from St. Paul.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS YELLING)

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: This was the scene as hundreds of protesters angry over Castile's killing shut down Highway I-94 late Saturday night.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS YELLING)

FLORIDO: Some in the crowd threw rocks and fireworks at police. Officers responded with smoke canisters and pepper spray. The St. Paul Police Department said 21 of its officers were hurt, including one who had a brick dropped on him from an overpass. Speaking to Minnesota Public Radio, Mayor Chris Coleman called what happened a riot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS COLEMAN: Up to the point where people were peaceful - up to the point where they were sitting on the freeway, they may have been unlawfully assembling, but they weren't rioting. The minute that brick was thrown, the minute the fireworks were thrown towards the police officer, that's riot.

FLORIDO: On the same station, local Black Lives Matter leader Lena Gardner denounced the violence, which she blames on outsiders and anarchists.

LENA GARDNER: Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis has been and always will be committed to nonviolent protest. We've taken that position from the get-go and we have never wavered from it. And we don't know.

FLORIDO: The group has asked for donations to cover the legal fees of arrested protesters. The violence both here and in other cities, including Dallas, where five police officers were killed during a march last week, has complicated the Black Lives Matter movement's effort to gain momentum after the deaths of Castile and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No justice. No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Prosecute the police.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Come on.

FLORIDO: Earlier on Saturday, protesters led a peaceful march through downtown Minneapolis, and for a fifth straight day, crowds gathered outside the Minnesota governor's mansion. Dozens remain camped outside there. Cornell Brooks is the NAACP's national leader, and he came here to speak at a local church over the weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORNELL BROOKS: We will stand up and stand against police misconduct, police brutality, and we will bring this 21st-century lynching until an end.

FLORIDO: Also over the weekend, the lawyer for Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who killed Philando Castile, spoke out. He told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Castile's killing had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of Castile's gun. Philando Castile had a license to carry a gun. Castile's family today hired television judge and attorney Glenda Hatchett. Officer Yanez remains on paid leave while officials investigate the shooting and decide whether to charge him or turn the case over to a grand jury. Adrian Florido, NPR News, St. Paul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.