Minnesotans of all walks hit the streets to grieve, protest

Published 9:51 am Friday, July 8, 2016

By Mary Lynn Smith

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesotans of all colors, ages and backgrounds took to the streets in peaceful protest Thursday, their voices rising in anger in response to Wednesday’s police shooting of a black man during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

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Their protests were echoed by others nationwide, in cities ranging from New York to Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. In Dallas, violence exploded late Thursday, with several police officers shot in a chaotic scene at what started as a peaceful rally.

“Enough is enough!” was one of several heartfelt refrains as thousands of men, women and children stood in front of the governor’s residence on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. Marchers came both early in the day and again later for an evening vigil for Philando Castile, whose death was captured in a harrowing video that went viral minutes after he was shot. Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, recorded the aftermath of the shooting by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Calling the Falcon Heights shooting egregious and outrageous, some Minnesotans, including ones who had never rallied before, joined activists who had repeatedly hit the streets last fall to protest the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark in November by Minneapolis police.

“They’re killing black men like animals,” said Jeff Viel, who is black. Viel got off work at United Hospital in St. Paul to attend the evening vigil — his first ever. Philando was a friend, he said.

“I’m afraid for my son. He’s 11 years old. It could be any of us,” he said.

One by one, activists from across the Twin Cities, along with Castile’s girlfriend and family, spoke to the morning crowds, calling for solidarity in a search for justice and change.

“I’m here because you keep killing my people,” said Pastor Danny Givens as he turned to Gov. Mark Dayton, who spoke to those gathered outside his residence. “You keep telling us you’re going to do something. … I want you to put some action on it. I want it to be real. This isn’t black anger. It’s black grief. It’s black pain. … These are black people who are mad because we’re tired of our children being murdered in the streets.”

As Castile’s girlfriend and family members wept, Givens called for people to join him on the streets. “I’m done praying,” he said. “I will not get on my knees one more time about this.”

Protesters began their stand outside the governor’s residence Wednesday night and continued into Thursday. Hours later, a vigil for Castile drew more than 4,000 outside the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where he’d served meals to more than 500 kids twice a day.

Lynne Morioka, who grew up in St. Anthony, drove to the rally from her home in Richfield and carried a sign that said: “Ashamed of my hometown police department.”

“[St. Anthony officers] were such a positive force in my community,” she said. “Every kid knew their names; they knew everybody. It’s my understanding things have changed, and it’s not a good change.”

Morioka and her husband are preparing to adopt a child. They’re both of Japanese heritage and will take a child who chooses them, they said. “If we are chosen to be parents of a brown-skinned child, I don’t know if I’d feel safe for my child,” she said.