Mayor, protest leader condemn violence at Minnesota demonstration

By David Bailey. MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – The mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota and a protest leader on Sunday decried violence that erupted during a demonstration over the police shooting of a black motorist that blocked an interstate for hours and left 21 officers injured.Google+

A softball team hugs after paying their respects at a makeshift memorial at Dallas Police Headquarters following the multiple police shootings in Dallas, Texas, U.S., July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A softball team hugs after paying their respects at a makeshift memorial at Dallas Police Headquarters following the multiple police shootings in Dallas, Texas, U.S., July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

“We will not tolerate the kind of shameless violence we saw throughout the course of the night,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said in a news conference. “This doesn’t honour anyone’s memory.”

About 300 protesters blocked traffic on Interstate 94 in St. Paul on Saturday night to protest last week’s fatal shooting of Philando Castile, 32, in a St. Paul suburb. Officers were pelted with rocks, bottles, concrete, construction materials and fireworks, police said.

Rashad Turner, leader of Black Lives Matter St. Paul and one of the protest organizers, told WCCO-TV on Sunday he was very disturbed by the throwing of rocks and bottles at officers, which he attributed to outside agitators from nearby streets, not the protesters on the freeway.

“It’s ridiculous. It cannot happen. It’s not what we do here in St. Paul,” Turner said. “It does not honour Philando Castile.”

Police arrested 50 protesters on the interstate and another 52 who were marching hours later on a street near the governor’s mansion in St. Paul that has been the focus of protests since Castile was shot Wednesday night.

“It’s really a disgrace, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said. “Protesters last night turned into criminals. And I am absolutely disgusted by the acts of some, not all, but some.”

More demonstrations are planned in Minnesota on Sunday.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton urged people to remain calm and peaceful and exercise their rights to protest lawfully.

“The occupation and shutting down of Interstate 94 last night were unlawful and extremely dangerous,” said Dayton, who praised police for repeatedly trying to resolve the situation peacefully and protest leaders “who were doing their utmost to stop this very dangerous escalation.”

Protests have erupted across the nation since the police shootings of Castile in Falcon Heights and Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The protesters have been undeterred by heightened safety concerns after a gunman killed five police officers during a demonstration in Dallas on Thursday.

Police arrested 102 people in Baton Rouge on Saturday night and Sunday morning after confrontations between police and demonstrators that injured two officers, police said.

Those arrested in Louisiana included activist and former Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson, officials said.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Bryn Stole in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Editing by Paul Simao)

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