MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Over 40 people were arrested and charged with misdemeanors after a protest shut down southbound Interstate 35W near University Avenue Wednesday morning.
A representative for the city of Minneapolis says 41 people were charged with misdemeanors, including public nuisance and unlawful assembly. Those who posted a $78 bail are scheduled to appear in court on July 27. Those who did not will appear in court tomorrow afternoon.
A large group of people protesting the fatal shooting of Philando Castile began to gather on the I-35W bridge at University Avenue around 7:40 a.m.
Rush hour traffic quickly backed up on the southbound lanes and delays were reported to be around 91 minutes. WCCO’s Ashley Roberts reported traffic was backed up on SE University Avenue, too.
Troopers soon rerouted traffic off of I-35W and tow trucks were brought in as protesters stood in a line across the highway.
Shortly before 9 a.m., state troopers formed a line to block other protesters from getting onto the interstate.
The protesters were a group of white and non-black people of color, which calls itself the Coalition to Wake Your Ass Up. Among many other chants, they group shouted “I believe that we will win.”
Oluchi Omeoga of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis offered words of support for the protesters.
“These white people understand that we’re going through something, that black people are going through something in this country, and they want to fight to make a difference. I think that’s beautiful. This is not just St. Paul … this is a systematic issue,” Omeoga said.
The group says it shut down the interstate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and released a statement following the protest:
“The coalition…believes this shut down reinforces our belief that comfort and business as usual must be disrupted until substantive changes occur in our city and throughout the country. We support community-led alternatives, solutions, and programs to protect our communities. On this day, we support the workers attempting to make a living but we also know that sacrifices must be made if we hope to live decently together.”
The protest lasted nearly two hours before the protesters were arrested and their vehicles were towed.
Southbound Interstate 35W reopened shortly after 9:15 a.m.
In total, the Minnesota State Patrol says 41 people were arrested and four vehicles that were used to block traffic were impounded. Sgt. Jesse Grabow said the arrested individuals would be “charged appropriately for their actions which endangered the motoring public.”
“The State Patrol supports the right to exercise one’s First Amendment rights, but the freeway is not the place to do so,” Col. Matt Langer, Minnesota State Patrol Chief, said. “The closure of an interstate freeway for the purposes of a demonstration is unacceptable. They are used by everyone and are an artery for emergency vehicles. It is illegal to walk on the freeway and blocking traffic is dangerous for both pedestrians and motorists.”
Protesters were released from Hennepin County Jail several hours after traffic resumed.
Around 8:20 a.m. the president of the Minneapolis Chapter of NAACP, Nekima Levy-Pounds, posted on Facebook that she had just gotten word of the protests.
Meanwhile, a protest was also underway at the Star Tribune building.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 13, 2016
Castile was shot and killed last week by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.
In the days following, groups have been holding a vigil at the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul since last Thursday.
Protesters also gathered on Interstate 94 in St. Paul on Saturday, closing that interstate for hours. At least 46 people were charged with third-degree riot after Saturday’s protest.
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