About 100 people rallied and marched in Edina on Saturday to protest police brutality, blocking the busy intersection at 50th and France for about 40 minutes.
The gathering, organized around the theme of “I Am a Man,” was held to address the issues of racial profiling and police violence against black men, including fatal police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. Its initial inspiration was last week’s encounter between a black pedestrian and a plainclothes Edina police officer, part of which was caught on camera.
Black men were invited to stand together on the steps of City Hall, where speakers challenged the police’s account of the incident and the way they interact with black residents.
John Thompson, of St. Paul, pointed to his 7-year-old son, Myzjohn, and other little boys in the crowd, declaring: “They won’t be Philando! They won’t be Jamar!”
“They won’t be standing here begging for the same rights,” said Thompson, who worked with Castile in the St. Paul School District.
Edina was chosen before organizers were aware of Friday’s announcement by Minneapolis police that officers involved in Clark’s November 2015 fatal shooting would not face disciplinary action after being cleared by an internal affairs investigation.
The peaceful protest, which began around 1 p.m. at Edina City Hall, wound its way through residential streets before blocking 50th and France, the heart of a popular upscale shopping area. Most onlookers from nearby restaurants and stores appeared to be sympathetic, despite the resulting traffic jam.
March marshals clad in bright yellow vests held signs up for riders on a blocked bus to read that said, “One race: Humans.” The protesters let one driver pass after he told them he had to go to work and expressed support for their message.
Several male organizers removed their shirts during the march to show support for Larnie B. Thomas, the pedestrian in the Edina video who ditched his shirt to try to prevent plainclothes officer Lt. Tim Olson from grabbing him.
“I understand that people have died for this cause, and the sad part is that they still are,” said longtime north Minneapolis activist Bill English, 82.
Last week, Thomas was detained and cited by Edina police for walking in the street. Charges were later dropped. A seven-minute bystander video of the incident went viral, garnering more than 8 million views on social media and sparking national outrage about how the man was treated.
This week, city officials said they believe “officers followed established protocol,” but dismissed the citation and apologized to a crowd that jammed the City Council chambers to discuss the incident.
Three separate dashcam videos released Friday show the aftermath of the altercation. There’s no footage of Thomas walking in the street or the confrontation between Thomas and Olson.
The Rev. Danny Givens, clergy liaison for Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, said Thomas was simply a black man trying to get to work on time, navigating around sidewalk construction. Protesters blocking the intersection Saturday demanded that Olson be fired.
“That’s not how you treat a black man,” Givens said to cheers at Saturday’s rally. “That’s not how you treat any man.”