Black Lives Matter St. Paul rallied outside the governor’s residence and marched throughout the Summit Hill neighborhood for about 90 minutes Tuesday, demanding an apology from Gov. Mark Dayton for his remarks about the group’s weekend protest at the State Fair.
Dayton said the group raises valid concerns but called the Saturday demonstration, which blocked traffic on Snelling Avenue for several hours outside the fairgrounds, “inappropriate.”
“It was disrespectful to call protesting inappropriate,” said the group’s lead organizer, Rashad Turner. “The governor needs to wake up and realize he’s in a position to help people. … We expect him to support our community.”
About 50 demonstrators attended the 6 p.m. rally Tuesday, which began outside Dayton’s gates on Summit Avenue and wound its way through nearby streets, an area that Turner called the “most racially isolated” in St. Paul.
Dayton wasn’t home at the time and hadn’t received a request to meet with the group, said spokesman Matt Swenson.
But Turner said he planned to reach out to Dayton and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith to air the group’s grievances, which largely revolve around police brutality in the aftermath of officer-involved fatal shootings of black men and women across the country.
Black Lives Matter St. Paul marched outside the Great Minnesota Get-Together on Saturday to call attention to an alleged disparity at the fair, which organizers say has not been welcoming to minority vendors or patrons. Dayton said the group should have taken its complaints to the State Fair board several months ago.
The president of the St. Paul police union has sharply criticized some protesters for what he calls a “disgusting” chant during Saturday’s march. 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, 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.
Turner, in interviews both with the Star Tribune and CNN, said that the chant was not a threat against officers’ lives and that too much focus was being placed on “rhetoric.”
On Tuesday, organizers aimed to replicate its peaceful march on a smaller scale. Loretta Vanpelt, of south Minneapolis, participated with her twin 5-year-old daughters Danielle and Maleli.
“They should know how people power works,” Vanpelt said. “The civil rights movement wasn’t won with politely worded letters. It was like this.”