The president of the St. Paul police union has sharply criticized some protesters at Saturday’s Black Lives Matter march to the Minnesota State Fair for what he calls a “disgusting” chant promoting violence against officers.
Hundreds of protesters, led by the Black Lives Matter St. Paul organization, marched north along Snelling Avenue to the gates of the fairgrounds Saturday to protest racial inequities in St. Paul and elsewhere. Some demonstrators shouted chants criticizing police as they were being escorted by officers who cleared the way for the demonstration, said David Titus, head of the St. Paul Police Federation.
A short video posted on Twitter shows that at one point in the march, at least several protesters were at the front carrying a banner and shouting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon!” as the camera pans to show police on bikes, squad cars and a utility vehicle.
“Quite simply — that promotes death to cops,” Titus said in a statement posted on the union’s Facebook page. In an interview Monday afternoon, Titus said several officers told him they were upset with the comments.
“Here we got these cops protecting this march … and then all of a sudden they make the message about violence against police officers,” Titus said. “I don’t find it peaceful talking about offing cops.”
In a statement Monday, Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, called the chant “deplorable and threatening.”
The man who shot the video, who wanted to be identified only as Niko, said the chant occurred near the end of the demonstration as protesters walked away from the fairgrounds. He said it lasted about 30 seconds, and he added that when the chanting ended, a police officer laughed and made a joke about bacon.
Rashad Turner, the lead organizer of Black Lives Matter St. Paul, who helped set up the protest, said the chant was not a threat against officers’ lives.
“It was a chant,” Turner said. “I think that the crazy thing is that there’s all this uproar about rhetoric but there isn’t uproar about the facts. … Just because they provide us with their self-appointed escort does not mean it erases the fact that they are the deadliest police department in the state.”
Beginning in 2009, St. Paul police have shot and killed 11 men, nine of whom were people of color. No other law enforcement agency in Minnesota has used deadly force more often over the past six years.
Saturday’s march was the latest in a series of Black Lives Matter rallies and protests around the country, which have largely centered on police brutality in the aftermath of police killings of black men and women across the country.
Monday afternoon, when asked about the chant by an anchorwoman on CNN, Turner restated his concern that too much focus was being placed on “rhetoric.”
During the CNN interview, last week’s shooting of a sheriff’s deputy at a suburban Houston gas station was referenced. The alleged shooter, Shannon J. Miles, 30, who is black, was charged Saturday in connection with the killing.
When asked by CNN if the chant by protesters in St. Paul Saturday incites violence, Turner said that the Black Lives Matter movement does not condone violent acts.
“We do not want to see black people being killed,” Turner told the Star Tribune. “We don’t want to see cops being killed.”
Saturday’s protest began about 11 a.m. at Hamline Park in St. Paul. Marchers walked north to the fairgrounds, enduring some heckling from onlookers. At one point, the crowd deviated from the announced march route and attempted to enter a Como Avenue fair entrance, which was quickly blocked by police officers. St. Paul police said no arrests were made.