A group of Native Lives Matter movement supporters rallied against police brutality in St. Paul on Saturday night, briefly disrupting traffic as they marched down Mounds Boulevard.
A sizable contingent of St. Paul police, who had been clearing traffic, halted the march before it entered downtown. Earlier plans to stage a protest with Black Lives Matter at the Red Bull Crashed Ice Championship, also occurring Saturday night, were called off after many of the group’s demands were met.
Getting ordered to disperse pic.twitter.com/UHegCFNNco— Eric Roper (@StribRoper) February 27, 2016
The rally at Indian Mounds Park highlighted a number of American Indians who have been killed by police, including the fatal shooting of Philip Quinn last year. A Ramsey County grand jury cleared the two officers involved last week, ruling that their actions were justified.
“Something’s gotta change. The grand jury process is a joke,” Darleen Tareeq, Quinn’s fiancée, told the crowd. Tareeq said the state should require officers to carry their own liability insurance.
“I think that could change the grand jury process a lot,” Tareeq said. “Because then the county attorney’s office wouldn’t be worried about protecting their pockets and the city’s pockets.”
Quinn died last September in the city’s West End during what his family called a mental health crisis. The officers, who were responding to a report of a suicidal man cutting himself, say Quinn ignored commands to drop a screwdriver and charged until the officer had his back against a fence and could retreat no further.
“A lot of times [families] knew that they were dealing with a mental issue,” said Mike Forcia, a prominent activist with the American Indian Movement. “And the last thing they wanted to see was their loved one being shot and killed right in front of them because the police came to help.”
About 35 people marched from the park down Mounds Boulevard, stopping at 7th Street. Chants included “Whose land? Native land,” and “Justice for Phil. Fire McGuire,” a reference to the officer involved in the shooting. No arrests were apparent.
Crashed Ice was expected to attract as many as 140,000 visitors. Mayor Chris Coleman said a large protest there would have “created a volatile situation,” and though he respected the right to free speech, there was a need to protect public safety, so he was grateful the protest was called off.
BLM-St. Paul said Friday that their demands had been addressed sincerely. “We want them to hear us and I feel like they’re listening,” the group’s leader, Rashad Turner, told Saturday’s rally. “So let’s keep doing this, let’s stick together.”