Two days after the verdict that broke the hearts anew of Philando Castile’s family members, friends and many in the community, marchers took to the streets again on Sunday afternoon.
The rage continued, the tears continued, the chants of “Shame” and “Shut it down” continued.
The three-hour rally and march started at noon at the St. Anthony City Hall and Police Department and drew about 300 people at its height. The group listened to organizer Corydon Nilsson, formerly of Black Lives Matter St. Paul and now of New North. They listened to Samantha Pree-Stinson, the mother of three sons and a candidate for the Minneapolis City Council’s Third Ward. They listened to an emotional John Thompson, Castile’s friend and co-worker, who has emerged as a protest leader.
“I’m so tired of people telling me it’s not about race,” Thompson screamed into a bullhorn. “It’s not about race? … It is about race.
“Shame on you jurors; each and every one of you failed African-American men and told the police departments around the world it’s OK to shoot black men if you’re scared of them.”
At one point, Thompson ended up in tears in the arms of a friend; his son, My’zjohn, 8, circled his waist in a hug.
The people who gathered Sunday were again protesting the not-guilty verdicts read in a St. Paul courtroom Friday afternoon. Former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shot Castile, 32, after a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights last July 6. His girlfriend was in the passenger seat, her daughter in the back.
Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of reckless discharge of a firearm. But one juror, speaking for the panel of 12, said Friday that the law is written in such a way that they could not find him guilty.
The verdict, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Friday, was “the product of a fair and impartial investigation, thorough prosecution review and a trial by a jury of Ramsey County residents.”
The city of St. Anthony announced shortly after the verdicts were read that Yanez would no longer be employed as a police officer there. The city said it would negotiate a severance agreement and train him for another job.
Series of protests
On Friday night, about 2,000 protesters gathered at the State Capitol, then marched through St. Paul. A smaller number blocked traffic on Interstate 94, resulting in 18 arrests. A more subdued group protested Saturday. Sunday’s group was far from subdued.
They were particularly angry that Yanez was being paid to leave and could end up as a police officer elsewhere.
“Call Chief Mangseth,” Nilsson told the crowd. “Tell him no pay for a murderer.”
Abdi Iman of Eden Prairie wore a set of white wings made of feathers to the protest.
“We just need to do better as a whole society,” he said. “Injustice is not OK. We need to do better.
“It’s hard for me, making a stance like this,” Iman said. “If I don’t do it, who will do it for me?”
Many blamed elected officials — mayors, city councils and legislators — who they say empower police officers to shoot first and think later. Nilsson again referred to Minnesota as the “Jim Crow North,” saying the “antiquated laws need correcting.”
The group marched north on Silver Lake Road, circled the Silver Lake Village shopping center, then headed back to City Hall. Several intersections were blocked for a short time. Sheriff’s deputies and police rerouted traffic but made no arrests.
Castile’s sister, Allysza, 24, spoke as the group blocked traffic at Silver Lake Road and 39th Avenue NE.
“Black lives matter,” she said. “Because now it is not about Philando. It is about us, the human race, us, white, black, Asian, purple, blue, gay, lesbian, straight. This is our state. We pay these people … to protect and serve us. And they murder us on the street like we are dogs.
“My brother was a good man, he was a righteous man,” she said, breaking into tears. “He didn’t deserve to go the way he did. I will never ever ever stop fighting for justice for my brother. One way or another we’re going to get it.”
Pree-Stinson described her sons, who are 17, 11 and 7.
“They’re vocal, young and want to have fun,” she said. “That was Philando at some point. Why is it that when our children flip into being an adult that suddenly they become scary? When they’re little, they’re cute and we want to tap their head, touch their hair and all that, but as soon as they turn into an adult, suddenly they become something that’s scary and fearful.”
Her 17-year-old son doesn’t want to drive, she said.
“The reality is, I know, every time they go out that door, I know there’s a good chance that he comes in contact with someone who doesn’t see the beauty I see in him,” she said.
Also on Sunday, Black Lives Matter Chicago and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression held a rally and march in solidarity with the marchers in the Twin Cities. According to the Black Lives Matter Facebook page, about 250 planned to attend.
Pat Pheifer • 612-673-7252