MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With six days left until one of the most popular marathons in the Midwest, organizers are responding to Black Lives Matter, whose members say they intend to disrupt the event.
The Twin Cities Marathon starts at 8 a.m. Sunday near U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings. The finish line is near the Minnesota State Capitol. It’s been labeled “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America,” but one group has plans to change all that.
The St. Paul chapter of the group Black Lives Matter is planning a protest on Sunday, and leaders say they plan to block the finish line to prevent runners from completing their 26.2 miles. Organizer Rashad Turner says protesters will “become the finish line” blocking the path of runners just about one mile from the actual end of the race.
The group Twin Cities in Motion, which organizes and hosts all Twin Cities Marathon events, released a statement Monday on the matter. Twin Cities in Motion said they are working closely with city officials to ensure the safety of participants, volunteers, and spectators.
The Black Lives Matter protests have been in response to recent allegations of police brutality in St. Paul. The group held a protest on the Sunday of the Vikings’ home opener at TCF Bank Stadium, marching and standing on the Green Line in St. Paul to prevent light rail transit from getting to Minneapolis. Metro Transit was well-prepared with buses to replace the trains, and there was no disruption in fans getting to the game.
Rashad Turner with the St. Paul chapter of Black Lives Matter said, “Our job as an organization is to keep the pressure on. Our job is to let the community know that every day we are planning on dismantling white supremacy.”
Turner said the goal of Sunday’s planned protest is not to have runners afraid or intimidated. But rather, it’s to unite.
“My hope is the marathon runners realized they’re not going to be able to finish this race and instead of being angry and complaining, that they join in in the protest and stand in solidarity because justice is all we are asking for,” Turner said. “I’m not concerned about them feeling threatened. We’ve always been non-violent, we’ve been peaceful. Hypothetically we’d be more afraid of a car running through the crowd like they have in the past than we would a marathon runner reacting with violence.”
Turner said the group plans to rally somewhere along the marathon route, and that spot will end up having to be the finish line.
“I would hope people would get tired of the injustices we are facing sooner than they get tired of us protesting,” Turner said.
Minneapolis-based criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino said the City of St. Paul and the police department have a difficult decision to make when it comes to handling this protest.
He said Minneapolis has a specific city ordinance that doesn’t allow interference with a parade or race, but St. Paul doesn’t have that specific ordinance.
However, Tamburino said protesters could still be in violation of several laws.
“In St. Paul, they have an ordinance that says you can’t block the roadway, there are also general criminal laws that could be violated,” Tamburino said. “Some could be charged with disorderly conduct.”
Tamburino said how the city handles this marathon protest could have great implications for the race in the future.
“If a city decides not to prosecute conduct that could be charged and they continually look the other way, then any group can protest and say ‘wait a minute, you’ve never enforced this law before,” Tamburino said.
Tamburino says while protesters could be arrested for blocking the streets, runners could be arrested for assault if they react with force.
“If a runner reacts by intentionally running into one of these protesters that could be a misdemeanor charge or could be more than that depending on the damage,” Tamburino said.
Several Black Lives Matter protests have happened in the city in the past year that have disrupted traffic, but Tamburino said this protest is different since the protesters plan to physically enter the race.
St. Paul police have made very few arrests at Black Lives Matter rallies and said they’re main focus has always been and will continue to be the safety of everyone, including protesters.
Turner said he acknowledges protesters could be arrested on Sunday and says they are prepared to deal with possible arrests as civil rights leaders of the past did.