ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – St. Paul’s police chief and city attorney say there will be consequences for anyone interfering with runners during the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend.
The stern message was directed Wednesday at members of St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter organization. The group plans to protest the marathon, but says they don’t plan to interfere with the runners.
Police Chief Tom Smith said Wednesday afternoon that if protesters do disrupt the race, they’ll be arrested.
Thousands come from all over to be part of the Twin Cities Marathon, and for 33 years St. Paul Police have kept watch over the race.
“Not once in those 33 years has this event been disrupted by unlawful behavior and we’re not going to let that occur now,” Smith said.
He says the goal for police is to prevent protesters from interfering with the race.
“My message to runners and spectators is to come out and enjoy the day,” Smith said. “My message to any individual or group that are planning to disrupt the marathon is this: make sure your actions do not interfere with the safety of others, not the runners, not the spectators, not the men and women who will be working the event. Otherwise there will be consequences, including arrests.”
St. Paul Police served as escorts during previous protests by Black Lives Matter in St. Paul.
“We’ve shown an ability to respect the rights of protesters, most recently at the State Fair and the Green Line a couple of weeks ago, but this Sunday is different,” city attorney Sammy Clark said.
The difference is because thousands of people will be standing along a fixed route, cheering on runners, and a disruption could be considered a public safety issue.
“We remain committed to protecting the first amendment rights of individuals and groups that wish to be heard but not at the expense and safety of others,” Smith said.
Clark says for those who break the law, there will be consequences.
“We have any number of charges available to us that we have used in the past and that we will use again if necessary,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman authorized “all options” to be on the table to prevent the disruption of the race.
He and police officials will be meeting with Black Lives Matter organizers on Thursday. Coleman said he wants to get a clearer picture of the group’s demands.
The mayor added that the recent incidents of alleged police brutality cited by Black Lives Matter are under investigation.
In the past, Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Paul have demonstrated by marching outside the Minnesota State Fair and by blocking light rail traffic on the morning of the Minnesota Vikings home opener.