Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday waded into the racially charged debate over plans by a Black Lives Matter group planning a protest near the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon, saying activists should not disrupt the race.
His comments came on the heels of a statement by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who said Wednesday morning that "all options are on the table" to prevent a disruption to the race. More than 11,000 participants are expected to partake in the race, which ends in St. Paul at the State Capitol
"I hope that disruption can be avoided," Dayton said in a news conference, adding that "I don't want to forecast the outcome, or prejudge the outcome."
He criticized the St. Paul group's tactics, evoking his own career and past activism as a Vietnam War protestor. In a notable moment, Dayton made a case for dialogue between activists, state and local officials as an alternative, but not before he acknowledged the group's broader cause.
"Black lives matter," Dayton said. "I believe strongly that black lives matter. I believe my career's demonstrated the commitment to the principle that black lives matter. I acknowledge that there's discrimination. I acknowledge there's injustice, that there's inequality, but if that's the basis for taking disruptive actions, somebody can take disruptive action every day and every night for the foreseeable future.
"So if there's a particular grievance about whatever it is, then I would ask Black Lives Matter to consider meeting with the mayor, meeting with myself, if that's desired, as an alternative to disrupting people who have trained for a long time, and who are participating in a marathon, that in my judgment has no connection to the grievances that they want to put forward," he said.
Dayton said that he heard "indirectly" that a meeting with his office "would be counterproductive because they still take offense at what I said a couple of weeks ago about their actions at the State Fair."
The governor had previously called the State Fair protest "inappropriate," and he declined Wednesday to say whether he stood by the comment, conceding that the State Fair protest did not disrupt the annual fair as had been projected.