See more of the story

Activists gathered outside Minneapolis City Hall on Thursday to demand that city officials drop charges, most of them misdemeanors, lodged against more than 600 protesters who were arrested Nov. 4 on Interstate 94 in unrest following the 2020 election.

"We will continue to demand that these charges are dropped," said David Gilbert-Pederson, who is awaiting his day in court. "And we will continue to do that until all of the charges are dropped, not just against the 646 but for all the people who were arrested for standing up against the murderous police department in this city."

The protest, dubbed "Don't Let Trump Steal the Election," was organized by the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar after the Nov. 3 election. Delays in vote counts nationwide meant the results weren't known until Nov. 7.

Police and State Patrol troopers arrested and released protesters, saying they needed to clear the freeway after traffic was halted. State officials asserted it was illegal for pedestrians to be on the freeway.

But Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Thursday that the protesters had intended to march off the freeway at the next exit. Before they could leave, he said, officers and state troopers on horseback and in buses surrounded and arrested them.

It was the largest mass arrest in one day in the state's recent history, said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality. She said she thinks it was just a "dress rehearsal" for law enforcement before the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who has since been convicted in the murder of George Floyd last year.

"The problem is police violence and the lack of accountability that follows. That is the real problem," said Gross.

After the November arrests, protesters urged Gov. Tim Walz to intervene. On Thursday, as Minneapolis city elections approach and the arrested protesters receive court dates, Pederson said activists are calling on Mayor Jacob Frey to take action.

"If this was meant to be an intimidation tactic, it is not working," said Monique Cullars-Doty, representing Black Lives Matter Minnesota and the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar. "There are those of us who have chosen our path and our future, and it may contain more arrests. But we have never seen change without a fight."

According to news accounts, charges against many protesters involved in demonstrations last year in other cities across the country have been dropped.

The Minneapolis City Attorney's Office declined to comment Thursday.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141