Organizers of the St. Paul chapter of Black Lives Matter have given assurances they will not stop runners from finishing Sunday’s Twin Cities Marathon, Mayor Chris Coleman said Thursday.
Flanked by community organizers, Coleman made his comments at a media briefing after meeting privately for more than two hours with Rashad Turner, the leader of the St. Paul group, and others at the mayor’s office in City Hall.
Coleman said protesters will be provided space to rally near the finish line and will not go on the course.
“Sunday’s marathon will go off as planned,” Coleman said.
He added later, “But I also do want people to pause just a moment and hear … what they are saying because the reality, folks, is anybody that doesn’t realize we have a challenge in this country isn’t paying attention to the facts.”
More than 11,000 participants are expected for the 26.2-mile race, which begins at 8 a.m. Sunday in downtown Minneapolis.
Thursday’s meeting followed backlash by some residents — and pushback by government officials including Coleman and Gov. Mark Dayton — when the demonstration was announced. On Wednesday, city leaders had said St. Paul police could take action, including arrests, to prevent Black Lives Matter from disrupting the marathon.
The St. Paul group, which is not officially affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, had said it planned to shut down the marathon near the finish line at the State Capitol to raise awareness of recent incidents involving St. Paul police and people of color.
On Thursday, Turner said he appreciated the mayor’s willingness to listen to the group’s grievances and said the group would continue to talk with the mayor’s office.
“The main thing that we try to accomplish as a chapter, as a community, is to have our voices heard and that was done today,” Turner said.
Turner was joined by Nick Khaliq, former City Council member and former president of the St. Paul chapter of the NAACP, as well as Trahern Crews, a community organizer and City Council candidate.
“We’ve been dealing with this for many years and I think that there’s some structural and systemic issues that folks want to see changed,” Khaliq said.
Since 2009, St. Paul police have shot and killed 13 people, the most by any law enforcement agency in Minnesota. Most of those killed were people of color, including Philip Quinn, who was shot last week when police responded to a call of a suicidal man.
While Coleman said he couldn’t comment on a particular case still under investigation, he said that he was confident that Police Chief Tom Smith would thoroughly investigate police incidents that have alarmed some residents in the community.
“Across this country, we have seen concerns raised,” Coleman said. “You can’t turn on a computer without seeing video from incidents across the country that raise concerns. And I think that the question is, ‘How do we address these concerns? How do we assure people that they will receive equal protection under the law?’ ”
Later this month, the city is expected to release findings of an independent audit of its Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission.
The commission reviews all citizen complaints alleging excessive force, discrimination, poor public relations and improper procedures or conduct by police. It also reviews complaints referred by the mayor and police chief, and all instances when an officer fires a gun for a reason other than training.
Talk of an audit arose last year after the commission exonerated three officers who had been involved in the arrest of a black man in a downtown skyway.