Hundreds of Black Lives Matter Demonstrators March in Streets of St. Paul
It was called an “Emergency Shut Down” protest and despite being publicly called for only a few hours beforehand, at around 6:30pm hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of St. Paul after a brief rally at Hamline Park off of Snelling Avenue. The action was organized jointly by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and the Black Liberation Project.
Several intersections were shut down and green-line light rail trains halted in order to bring awareness to commuters and others about the on-going racial injustice across the United States and right here in the Twin Cities.
Demonstrators were entirely peaceful, and St. Paul Police officers were very standoffish, even though the destination of the march was SPPD Western District Headquarters in order to “let them know how we feel,” according to a speaker at the first rally.
Officer Paul Iovino of SPPD made an appearance before that rally. He told me that, “[SPPD] is out here this evening because there is a large event.” Members of the protest group explained to him that there would be no aggression towards police from their side and they expected that policy to be reciprocated.
The only agitators were the (mostly white, from what I witnessed) motorists that were upset at being delayed on the roadway and forced to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality of race relations in this country. They honked their horns aggressively, some heckled from their windows and even revved their engines in order to send some kind of angry message to the Black Lives Matter activists.
Despite the attempts to demean and rile-up the activists from the peanut gallery, no arrests, no vandalism, and no other crimes whatsoever occurred.
Spirituals, almost feeling like a collective prayer, were sang hoping that in the future, “the day gonna come when I don’t march no more…” presumably once social justice has been achieved. Classic protest chants were shouted loud enough that people poked their heads out of businesses along the route in order to take pictures and cheer on the marchers.
During the several intersection shut downs, the names of those killed by law enforcement across the nation and here in Minnesota were exclaimed, and afterward to lighten the mood, music was pumped out of speakers attached to a bike trailer. Accompanying the blockade of Snelling and University, four minutes of silence along with a “die-in” (in which people lay on the ground) in honor and remembrance of Michael Brown who was left in the street for four hours after being shot by officer Darren Wilson, a year ago in Ferguson, Missouri.
Protest demands voiced during the several rallies and speeches included mandating body-cameras for local law enforcement, forcing police officers to carry personal liability insurance policies, much like medical professionals in order to take the burden of costly settlements away from the tax-payers and in an effort to hold officers accountable.
Calls for change directed at the City of Minneapolis were made in regards to the (now statistically proven) policies of targeting People of Color and poor communities with low level offenses which Nekima Levy-Pounds, prominent civil rights activist and attorney, pointed out helps the city generate revenue.
Other solutions proposed by Ms. Levy-Pounds were to have independent investigators activated each and every time there is an officer involved shooting. She went on to say that the community, “need[s] to be willing to continue to shut it down in order to get justice, [and] be willing to put our bodies on the line [like] during the Civil Rights Movement” when activists were attacked by police dogs, gas and more, to which she received much applause and even a longer duration chant of “Nekima for Mayor!”
The whole protest action was live-streamed by the North Star Post, and we will continue to dedicate resources to broadcasting the voice of the People whenever they are in the streets.