Photo Gallery: Students March In Black Lives Matter RallyREAD MORE: Andover Residents With Contaminated Drinking Water Frustrated, Want Answers
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly 1,000 people joined a protest Friday through the streets of Minneapolis.
The group Black Lives Matter encouraged students to walk out of schools and join a march to show solidarity with the events unfolding in Baltimore. The group and their supporters say they are fighting for racial and economic justice, and an end to police brutality.
Their movement started at about 8:30 a.m. at the Edina courthouse Friday morning, where 36 defendants who face charges in December’s Mall of America protest appeared for a hearing.
The defendants and their dozens of supporters made it known they don’t agree with the charges.
“If we got justice, we wouldn’t be in the mall saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,'” organizer Mica Grimm said. “If we got justice, we wouldn’t be in the streets blocking traffic. If we got justice, we wouldn’t be at the Capitol yelling at the Republican caucus.”
The group is also doing this to support protesters in Baltimore, who are outraged over the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody.
“We want to thank everybody for your support for coming out,” organizer Imani McCray said. “We are an innovative people, we are a beautiful people. Black lives matter. Power to the people.
The judge set pretrial hearings for five defendants, and special trial dates for three defendants due to scheduling conflicts: Pamela Twist on Nov. 9, Anthony Nocella on June 24 and Nekima Levy-Pounds on Nov.9.
Trial dates for the remaining 28 people involved in the MOA protest will be grouped together and heard on either Oct. 12 or Oct. 26 in downtown Minneapolis.
The state asked for a gag order to be issued Friday to prevent the defendants from talking to the media about the case, which the judge denied.
Hundreds of students cut class Friday for the protest, but those who talked to WCCO say what they experienced taught them a lot.READ MORE: Man Shot In Jaw While Driving In St. Paul
Tera-nay Lee, 17, says her mother is a teacher, but she still gave her and her 13-year-old brother the green light to walk out.
“They need to see this stuff and know that it’s really happening,” Lee said.
Minneapolis police kept close watch while teens from Southwest and Washburn high schools staged brief “die- ins” at various busy intersections along Lyndale Avenue as they marched toward Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in south Minneapolis.
Organizers estimate teens from 10 schools across the metro marched. The group says their efforts aren’t to create disruption, but change.
“I’ve learned more from going to protests over the last couple months than I’ve learned in a history class,” student Simone Williams said.
Organizer Mike McDowell faces several misdemeanor charges from his role in planning the MOA protest. He says he will take his fight all the way to trial in October.
But he says on Friday, he’s more focused on the fight young kids face each day at school.
“They said they want to see more staff of color. They want to see people who look like them teaching the classes,” McDowell said. “They talked about how, you know, they want their teachers to get cultural bias training, they want alternatives to suspension.”
Some of the youngest voices are speaking the loudest in Friday’s protest.
“Equality, just equality,” Lee said. “For everyone to be like, ‘This is my brother (hugs brother),’ like, ‘This is my sister,’ and for everyone to come together and be happy.”
Minneapolis Public Schools released a statement Friday morning in anticipation of student walkouts.
“MPS respects students’ First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. We will not discipline students for the act of protesting as long as the protest remains peaceful. However, if students walk out of school, they will not be able to return to the school for the remainder of the day and they may receive an unexcused absence,” district officials said.MORE NEWS: Parents Split On Whether They'll Vaccinate As Pfizer Touts Effectiveness With Kids 5 To 11
Area churches even provided snacks for the students. Many told WCCO their parents are OK with them missing a day of school.