After meeting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, organizers of a protest at Sunday's Twin Cities Marathon say they will go ahead with a demonstration but won't interrupt the race.
Black Lives Matter officials said Thursday that city officials listened to their concerns about the police, which was the group's goal.
"I am happy that we have a chance to have this dialogue," Coleman said.
Coleman met privately Thursday morning at City Hall with Rashad Turner, the leader of the St. Paul Black Lives Matter group, for more than two hours. The mayor had asked for a meeting before the race.
"Our voices are being listened to," Turner said, after the meeting.
Before the meeting, St. Paul police had said they will consider all options — including arrests — to prevent Black Lives Matter from disrupting the marathon and stopping runners from finishing the race.
“These threatened actions pose an unacceptable risk to runners, spectators and protesters themselves,” Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement released by his office on Wednesday.
That’s why, the mayor said, he had asked Chief Thomas Smith “to keep all options on the table to prevent disruption of the race or prevent runners from finishing the marathon.”
Marathon officials responded favorably, issuing a release saying that they would continue the race as planned on advice from city officials.
Turner, from the St. Paul Black Lives Matter group, arrived at the mayor’s office about 10 a.m. Coleman and Turner met with the media afterward.
The St. Paul group had said it planned to shut down the marathon near the finish line at the State Capitol to raise awareness of recent incidents involving St. Paul police and people of color. More than 11,000 participants are expected for the 26.2-mile race, which begins at 8 a.m. Sunday in downtown Minneapolis.
In an interview in late August, Turner said that the St. Paul group, which is not affiliated with the Minneapolis chapter, hadn’t yet applied to the national Black Lives Matter movement for recognition as an official chapter.
In a Wednesday afternoon news conference at police headquarters, Smith said that St. Paul police had provided security for the marathon for 33 years.
“Not once … has this event been disrupted by unlawful behavior, and we’re not going to let that occur now,” he said.
Smith didn’t provide details on how police plan to respond to race interruptions, other than that there would “be consequences, including arrests.”
“My message to runners and spectators is to come out and enjoy the day,” he said. “My message to any individuals or groups that are planning to disrupt the marathon is … make sure that your actions do not interfere with the safety of others.”
Marathon is ‘different’
Smith was joined at the news conference by St. Paul City Attorney Samuel Clark, who said that the city was willing to use “any number of charges available to us … if necessary.”
Clark drew a contrast with earlier Black Lives Matter protests at the State Fair and along the Green Line. The marathon is different, he said, because it’s a set course that will be bounded by thousands of spectators.
Gov. Mark Dayton also waded into the racially charged debate Wednesday, saying he hoped that disruption of the race could be avoided. The governor angered the group’s leaders a few weeks ago by calling their State Fair protest “inappropriate.”
“I would ask Black Lives Matter to consider meeting with the mayor, meeting with myself, if that’s desired,” Dayton said, “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.”
Earlier Wednesday, St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said the department was “taking steps to ensure the event is safe and a success for all runners, spectators and everyone in the community who has put so much time and effort into the event. We respect people’s rights to make their voices heard, but not at the expense of others.”
At his news conference, Dayton criticized the group’s tactics and evoked his own activism as a Vietnam War protester.
“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.”
Staff writers Ricardo Lopez and James Walsh contributed to this story.