Several hundred people gathered in front of the federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Thursday evening to protest the use of federal officers in Portland, Ore., where sometimes violent rallies against police brutality have been going on for weeks.

Activists from more than a dozen groups, including Black Lives Matter Minnesota, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Lawyers Guild, expressed concern that Minneapolis could experience the same federal presence soon — something they would vehemently oppose.

Sam Martinez, an organizer from the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, said he helped coordinate the rally just over 24 hours ago and was pleased with the turnout.

"This is not something we do regularly, but it's good to know people are ready … to defend the community," Martinez said. "It just shows that Minneapolis, it was the epicenter, and we're not going anywhere."

Among the sculpted mounds of green grass in front of the courthouse, leaders of various groups decried police brutality and racial injustice.

Several people who said their loved ones were killed by police officers spoke emotionally.

Attendees held cardboard signs and fabric flags reading "Silence is violence," "Feds in Portland, proving our point" and "Demilitarize the United States."

Latahvoni Smith, who described herself as a spoken-word artist and new mother, shared two poems with the crowd.

In one, she decried police violence against people of color.

"I'm a little girl, but I have a big voice," she said, referencing her height.

Misty Rowan of the Anti-War Committee asked the crowd if it was prepared to protest if federal officers arrived. She also said she wanted to give the crowd hope.

"It is our job to take this opportunity, take this momentum, and run with it," she said.

Following the speeches, the group marched around downtown.

"Black lives, they matter here," marchers chanted, walking or riding their bikes through the otherwise quiet streets.

Erin Adler • 612-673-1781