Min­ne­ap­olis cou­ple Lex and Celina Berndt did not ex­pect to mar­ry af­ter just a four-month en­gage­ment.

Celina, 24, popped the ques­tion on Val­en­tine’s Day, with an i­dyl­lic back­drop of a beach in Puer­to Rico.

“We went to a roof­top res­tau­rant on the beach, and Celina took me up to the se­cond floor over­look­ing the o­cean and pro­posed. It was re­al­ly cute. They al­read­y knew I was going to say yes,” Lex said.

The cou­ple had envisioned a two-year en­gage­ment, af­ter Lex, 25, wrapped up stud­ies. But when George Floyd was killed by Min­ne­ap­olis po­lice on Memorial Day, their plans shift­ed dras­ti­cal­ly. Af­ter weeks of pro­tests and ac­tiv­ism, the cou­ple mar­ried in front of the burned-out Third Pre­cinct police station, on the 51st anni­ver­sa­ry of the Stone­wall riots in New York City.

The Third Precinct station was the focus of protests because it was where the officers who killed Floyd worked. The precinct has had a reputation for being home to renegade cops.

“We were bas­i­cal­ly out on the front lines those first two nights,” Celina re­called. “We had some friends who had a van, and we were able to gath­er med­i­cal sup­plies and dis­tri­bute on the front lines. It was very in­tense.”

Dur­ing the early days, it was very scary to be in Min­ne­ap­olis, said Lex, who does not have fam­i­ly in Min­ne­so­ta. They start­ed think­ing more se­ri­ous­ly a­bout ty­ing the knot around the fifth day of pro­tests, when it was clear that things were not slow­ing down.

“We de­cid­ed that we should prob­a­bly go a­head and get mar­ried now be­cause the po­lice were ar­rest­ing and tear-gas­sing [peo­ple]. The pro­tests were very scary so we thought it would be best to pro­tect our­selves in that way,” Lex said.

While dis­tri­but­ing med­i­cal sup­plies, they were hit with both tear gas and chemical irritant, and saw oth­er peo­ple in­jured by pro­jec­tiles.

“We just thought get­ting our mar­riage li­cense would just give us a bit of pro­tec­tion,” Celina said.

“I could get ar­rest­ed, I could end up in the hos­pi­tal, re­al­ly any­thing could hap­pen, so I want­ed to make sure Celina and I could be to­gether no mat­ter what,” Lex said.

The i­de­a of mar­ry­ing in front of the Third Pre­cinct on Pride week­end came to Lex not long af­ter they re­al­ized that get­ting mar­ried meant they had to quick­ly plan a wed­ding.

The night that the pre­cinct burned and was abandoned by police, they were both work­ing in a med­i­cal tent. What they ex­peri­enced was in­de­scrib­a­ble, Lex said.

“We were get­ting mar­ried, at this mo­ment, spe­cif­i­cal­ly for legal pro­tec­tion, as the cit­i­zens were tak­ing back pow­er. We felt like it would be a nice state­ment,” Lex said.

The cou­ple mar­ried in front of the pre­cinct on June 28, sur­round­ed by friends who planned a back­yard re­cep­tion and found the per­fect pho­tog­ra­pher and vid­e­og­ra­pher.

“All of our friends who we were pro­test­ing with were there with us, so it was an op­por­tu­ni­ty to have a heal­ing mo­ment,” Celina said. Their cer­e­mo­ny was dif­fer­ent from what they had ex­pect­ed, but in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful, said Lex. The cou­ple hopes that their un­ion served as both an act of pro­test and one of sheer hap­pi­ness.

“Even though the po­lice are ex­treme­ly bru­tal, es­pe­cial­ly be­ing Black and queer, I just felt like I did want to be in the polic­es’ face, like no mat­ter what you do to me, I’m going to cele­brate my love. It felt like lib­er­a­tion,” Lex said.