ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Forty-six people arrested on riot charges have been charged with 3rd degree unlawful assembly and public nuisance charges in connection with Saturday’s I-94 protest that shut down the major highway.
Bail is set at $1,500, and those charged could make their first court appearances as soon as Tuesday.
The protests are in response to the shooting death of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights last week by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez it what seemed like a routine traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook, and the video quickly went viral, sparking outrage.
She said Yanez shot Castile after he asked to see Castile’s ID. The officer’s attorney says Castile’s gun was the issue, not his race.
On Saturday night, the protests — which had remained largely peaceful — took a violent turn. During the five-hour long protest, some protesters threw large rocks, bottles and more at police. Officials said 21 officers were injured in the protest. One has a spinal compression injury.
In a news conference Sunday, law enforcement drew a sharp contrast between those who were arrested and booked on riot charges, and the 52 protesters who were charged with the lesser crime of unlawful assembly.
The 46 being held on the more serious riot count are overwhelmingly white. A number of them have a history of work in the social justice field.
Kate Havelin of St. Paul has long been active in social and environmental causes. On Saturday night she posted video on her Facebook page showing the interstate shutdown.
Edith Sargon is the Executive Director of Wellstone Action and is the author of the blog, “Move to End Violence.”
Katherine Bisanz is the Program Director at the Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis. The Center’s executive director, Kristen Houlton Sukura, expressed disbelief at Bisanz’s arrest.
“Katherine is a wonderful rape crisis counselor,” Sukura said. “She works with police every day. There is no way she was inciting a riot.”
Police also arrested Max Hornstein, the 21-year-old son of State Representative Frank Hornstein and prominent Twin Cities Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman. Rep Hornstein said of his son
“We love him very much,” Rep. Hornstein said of his son. “He is a nonviolent kid. We reject violence in any form.”
Supporters of the arrested protesters gathered outside the Ramsey County Jail.
Days after chanting loudly, demonstrators chose silence as they were released from jail Monday evening.
One of the protesters not facing charges, Lena K. Gardner, spoke on behalf of Black Lives Matter.
“This was a planned action. This is civil disobedience. All of our folks sat down and were prepared to be arrested,” said Gardner.
“What comes as a surprise are the elevated charges, the inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric of the city attorney that is criminalizing protesting.”
Attorney Joe Tamburino says prosecutors don’t have to prove the individuals were the ones who threw objects and injured officers.
“Riot does not mean that each participant was doing the violent act,” he said. “What it says is that three or more people are together, they’re doing something that’s basically disorderly, and it involves violence, or threats, or harm to people or property.”
The city attorney determined charges based on police reports, photos and video. In each case, he says there was sufficient evidence to charge individuals. One protester is facing felony charges, accused of throwing construction debris and rocks at officers.
The statement of the St. Paul City Attorney stressed what Police Chief Todd Axtell said yesterday — that the protesters refused more than two dozen orders by police to leave the highway.
“As we understand this was just a handful of people that decided to assault our officers, it wasn’t all of them,” said Axtell.
“Our protesters have always been committed to non-violent protest and they remain so, even in the face of these charges,” said Gardner.
The charge they’re facing is third degree riot, which is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Police say 21 officers were hurt when members of the group threw rocks and other objects.
Via social media, Black Lives Matter has asked for donations to help cover legal fees.