An emotional weekend of protests swept across the Twin Cities after a jury delivered a verdict last Friday that acquitted former St. Anthony Police officer Jeronimo Yanez on all counts for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile last summer.
On Friday, thousands rallied at the state Capitol in St. Paul to denounce the verdict that cleared Yanez of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a weapon. Police arrested 18 people that night, including two journalists, of the roughly 500 who marched onto I-94, blocking traffic in both directions.
On Saturday, more than a hundred demonstrators also marched down Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, while hundreds rallied at the St. Anthony Police Department on Sunday.
The demonstrations, in part, reflect a growing debate surrounding what many see as deteriorating police-community relations nationwide and particularly with communities of color. Many at the weekend’s demonstrations called for immediate police reform, and an overhaul of Minnesota’s government and criminal justice system.
“We’re going to continue taking a stand, taking to the streets, advocating, demanding justice, running for office, and becoming the powers that be,” said Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds to a crowd of about 150 Saturday night, “so we can shift the paradigm in this city, in this state and in this nation.”
An outlet to vent
The demonstrations also acted as an outlet for many grieving over the outcome of Yanez’s trial and for those who have felt personally wronged by police in the past. “They gave us a false sense of hope by charging [Yanez],” said John Thompson — a former co-worker and friend of Castile — to a crowd of more than 2,000 Friday night. “Ya’ll murdered my friend!”
“He was my homeboy, my brother,” said another demonstrator of Castile. “He slept at my mama’s house, ate food off my mama’s plates. It hurts, man. Because I can’t see my homeboy again. They just told me my homeboy died for nothing.”
Dozens spoke at open mics provided at demonstrations all weekend, with many expressing their pain surrounding personal encounters with police. And at Friday’s demonstrations, crisis counselors provided services on scene for those seeking consolation.
At Saturday’s rally, Minneapolis Ward 3 City Council candidate Samantha Pree-Stinson related Castile’s death to her own two school-aged boys. “Are you scared of them?” she asked the crowd. “How come at some point we become afraid of them?”
Mustafa Diriye, who’s from Somalia and now lives in St. Paul, told Saturday’s crowd that when he has children of his own, he plans to take them back to Somalia for fear of what might happen to them. “I’ll never allow my kids to be disrespected, to be killed here,” he said.
Cathy Jones, a longtime activist and now the campaign manager for Levy-Pounds, also addressed the crowd on Saturday, reminding everyone that Castile’s family was still grieving. “I’m tired, I’ve been marching,” she said, “but I can’t imagine how the Castile family must be feeling.”