MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The group Black Lives Matter made their way toward the Minnesota State Fair Saturday.
The group says about 1,000 people were expected to march along a mile-and-a-half route from Hamline Park toward the fair’s main gates, though initial estimates appeared to show fewer than that.
Initial plans indicated that the march would head north on Snelling Avenue, but marchers deviated from that path and instead headed west on Como Avenue.
State Fair police, who are in charge of dealing with anyone from the group who tries to get into the grounds, closed gates 7, 9 and 10 to prevent protesters from getting inside the fair. https://twitter.com/sppdPIO/status/637685115322142720
Once they arrived at the main gate on Snelling and Dan Patch Avenue, protesters spent about a half hour chanting and listening to speeches as hundreds inside the fair watched, the two groups separated by fences.
City officials said they expect the demonstration to unfold orderly.
The city of St. Paul said the group has no permit to protest. Organizer Rashad Turner says they would not be taking direction from law enforcement.
His group backed out of a meeting with the Mayor Chris Coleman Friday morning, but WCCO spoke with Coleman about the impending protest.
“There is no city that has done more to work on some of the issues that have been raised by Black Lives Matter,” Coleman said. “We have worked on racial equity plans, we have worked on, just an incredible work on trying to diversify the ranks of the police department and the fire department.”
Turner says he disagrees with the mayor.
“We want to build that relationship with our police department to end those injustices, and hopefully, you know, Mayor Coleman can kind of get his mind right and get on board with real justice,” Turner said.
Coleman and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith promised everything will be safe at the fair Saturday.
Extra law enforcement will be on hand if traffic is disrupted, and several alternate routes to the fair exist.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis posted the following message on their Facebook page Saturday morning:
“Despite numerous threats of physical violence posted on the event page of #BlackFair, protestors remain committed to exercising their first amendment right by practicing peaceful non-violent direct action.
It is our hope and desire that police officers will also commit to non-violent behavior and practice deescalation tactics as Blacklivesmatter Saint Paul and company march through the streets of St. Paul.
Today, we understand that commitment to discipline is essential to our liberation.”
By 3:00 p.m. Saturday, all streets and exits were reopened. St. Paul Police said via their Twitter account that they estimated 300 to 350 people took part in the protests, and no one was injured or arrested in the process.