Hundreds of people gathered in Loring Park on Saturday to share sorrow about lives shattered by gun violence this past week and personal stories about how racism impacts their lives.
Then they marched through the streets of downtown, led by a group performing traditional Aztec dances, and carried signs honoring Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man killed by a St. Anthony police officer in Falcon Heights on Wednesday. Some signs were shaped like state license plates that read: “shame.”
The march included two short “die ins” where protesters laid down in the street near 9th & Hennepin and the Basilica of Saint Mary.
One of the event organizers, Jason Sole, a criminal justice professor and member of the Minneapolis NAACP, said he’s frustrated and hurt that it’s taken so long for people to awaken to the problem of police brutality and racial profiling. Those who attended the march and rally were asked to wear red to represent the blood that has been shed for all the lives lost to police violence and gun violence.
He said action and policy changes need to follow the conversations and demonstrations.
“I can walk into spaces and read people’s lips: ‘oh, it’s a black guy.’ I feel that, and they don’t know me or my heart or what I do or anything about where I’m going in my life. I shouldn’t have to live like this,” he said.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP and a civil rights attorney, also addressed the crowd.
“We wanted this day of atonement, solidarity, march and rally to be something that’s grassroots and organic. So we did not have any organizations co-sponsor this. It is for the people, by the people so that we can have a space to say what we want to say about what has happened here this week in the state of Minnesota and across this nation,” she said.
Anna Gambucci came to Loring Park carrying a sign reading: “End white silence. Black lives matter.”
She said she has attended many Black Lives Matter events and had plans to go out of town, but decided to stay and honor Castile. She said he was shot about a mile and a half from her home.
“I need to shift business as usual,” she said.
Another protest shut down traffic on Interstate 94 in St. Paul later Saturday evening and erupted in violence.
St. Paul Police said 21 officers from multiple jurisdictions were injured during the protests. Black Lives Matter leaders have been quick to denounce the actions of those who threw bottles, fireworks, rebar and rocks at officers, saying they were agitators not affiliated with peaceful demonstrators.
Forty-six people arrested by the State Patrol face gross misdemeanor riot charges.
“Protesters have ample safe areas to make their voices heard, the freeway is not one of these options,” said Col. Matt Langer, Minnesota State Patrol Chief. “Freeways are used by everyone and are an artery for fire, ambulance and law enforcement to respond to emergencies. It is illegal to walk on the freeway and blocking traffic can be dangerous for pedestrians on the freeway.”
Peaceful protests continued in St. Anthony on Sunday.