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Protesters block traffic at MN State Fair, demand end to police crimes

By Ted Mika |
August 26, 2019
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Anti-police crimes protesters line up for march to light rail tracks and MN Stat
Anti-police crimes protesters line up for march to light rail tracks and MN State Fair. (Monique Cullars Doty)

St. Paul, MN - On August 24, protesters shut down a light rail train, blocked traffic and shut down the main entrance to the Minnesota State Fair. The protesters demanded justice for victims of killer cops, an end to ICE raids, concentration camps and family separation, and an end to deadly U.S. interventions and blockades against foreign countries. Trump supporters and racists heckled, filmed and attacked the protesters, but failed to block the protesters’ message, and no serious injuries occurred.

This was the fifth annual protest of the Minnesota State Fair. The initial protest was in response to the murder of Marcus Golden by Saint Paul police. Five years later, Marcus Goldens’ family has not seen justice, but the protest has grown to include other victims of police violence.

Monique Cullars Doty, Marcus Golden’s aunt, said, “Out of that experience, and the support my family received, I have always wanted to work to help other families and other people who are feeling the oppression that exists in Minnesota and the United States; so, this year, we are here standing against U.S. wars and ICE raids, as well as against killer cops.”

Jess Sundin, of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, said, “The politicians that we have, the county attorneys that we have in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and across the state, are unwilling to stand up to police departments in the state, and that’s why we have hundreds of people who are killed by police across the state. We want for people to have their rights respected, their lives respected, and that means taking power out of the hands of police and the do-nothing politicians and putting it back in the hands of community members.”

After the speakers, the march took to the streets, blocking the main road to the state fair. First, though, marchers first headed away from the fair, and took control of an intersection that blocked both traffic and light rail. Police scurried to keep up with the unexpected change of course.

At the rail stop protesters called out Metro Transit for a new policy that stops trains for two hours overnight, which forces homeless people onto the streets without resources.

The protesters then headed to the main entrance to the state fair. The police harassed protesters along the way, calling out some by name and telling them they had been “bookmarked” and would be cited for being in the street. The police also attempted to interfere with people joining the march but failed.

At the fair intersection, protesters circled up and gave speeches. Some spectators cheered the protesters. A street preacher was already present at the site, shouting at fairgoers about sin. Like so many who are conservatives first, and alleged men of faith second, he began to verbally attack protesters, trying to call the families of people killed by police “sinners” for protesting. The protesters asked him how Jesus would feel about police killings. He had no answer and handed over his microphone.

A lone Trump supporter stood pathetically repeating “All lives matter.” She was uninterested in any intelligent discussion, but her husband was interested in trying to create a physical altercation.

The return march saw cheers from passersby and community members joining the march, as well as threats and harassment from more Trump supporters. One woman tried to block the march, threw a bottle, swatted at, and clawed protesters. She was left trying to convince police to interfere with the protest as the march continued. The march ended at the starting location.

During the event, the crowd heard from supporting organizations and family members of those murdered by police.

Toshira Garraway Allen, whose partner was beaten to death by St. Paul police and then thrown in a dumpster, spoke to the harassment and intimidation of family members by the police after a police shooting. “After they do this to your loved ones, they sit outside your home - because you’re fighting for justice...imagine what that is like - imagine the fear, imagine the terror. Imagine the hurt and the pain that we are living with. I say this all the time, I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy.”

A member of the group Justice for Justine Damond Ruszczyk called out the inequity of the settlements for the families of Justine Damond and Jamar Clark. Clark, a Black man executed by Minneapolis police, received just 1% of the settlement that the family of Justine Damond, a white woman murdered by Minneapolis police, received. She also highlighted the flawed investigations of police killings by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which has repeatedly been called out for either fumbling investigations or assisting in covering up police killings.

John Thompson, a friend of Philando Castile and member of The New North, responded to a reporter's question as to why the protesters choose to disrupt the state fair, “Why are doing it tonight on the night of the fair? Because it’s just not fair in the state of Minnesota that we have to come and march up and down the street for brothers and sisters that had bullets put in them by the police. It’s not fair how they treat Black people as opposed to white people in this state.”

Kent Mori, of the Anti-War Committee, spoke to the relationship between U.S. militarism and police violence against people of color, “If you look at the tactics they use, they use tactics out of aparthied Israel, right out of the Jim Crow South; and now they are implemented those same tactics on the border.”

Andre Friedman, a friend of Thurman Blevins, who was gunned down by Minneapolis police last summer, said, “Our politicians leave people devalued. I as a resident, I as a voter, and very importantly, I as a Black man, will not stand by while my neighbors, my community, is left devalued and gunned down.” Friedman called out Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has avoided meeting with community members and refused to take action on police violence, calling him “Jacob Fraud.”

Sumaya Aden, sister of Isak Aden, who was killed by police officers in July, said “It’s a system put in place to constantly keep us down. They’ve already made my brother into a statistic. We’re here in solidarity with all the families who have gone through what we’re going through. We understand your pain, and we’re here to make sure nobody else goes through what we’re going through.”

Daphne Brown, of Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, “We are working to get community control of the police. With Minneapolis Police Accountability Council, we’ll be able to rewrite the police rulebook. We’ll be able to hire and fire officers we want in our community.”