ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Dozens of people were arrested Tuesday as police in St. Paul cleared protesters from Summit Avenue in front of the governor’s mansion, where demonstrators have camped out following the police shooting death of Philando Castile earlier this month.
Since the July 6 shooting, protesters have camped out in front of Gov. Mark Dayton’s residence, shutting down Summit Avenue off and on. Over the weekend, protesters and community members gathered for a candlelight vigil, which again shut down the street.
On Tuesday morning, St. Paul police asked protesters to clear off of Summit Avenue and leave their encampment. Officers told protesters they could have no tents, tarps or chairs – or anything that could be seen as an object for occupation – at the scene or they would be subject to arrest.
Gallery: Images From Summit Avenue
Around 10:30 a.m., tensions rose after one protester allegedly moved a “no parking” sign from Summit Avenue. Officers attempted to arrest the protester, but other demonstrators locked arms and formed a human chain. In response, police arrested a number of people, and video from the scene shows officers dragging protesters from the remains of the encampment.
[Note: video below may contain explicit language]
“We linked up in solidarity to tell them that we’re not going to let them arrest him. And at that point they physically became abusive,” protest organizer Curtis Avent said.
While protesters and police stood toe to toe, additional officers tore down signs that covered the gate outside the mansion. They carried tents, tarps and fire pits away. Things then began to heat up between protesters and police a block away.
“Why would they need sticks at a non-violent, peaceful demonstration? It’s completely unacceptable,” said Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds. “I saw them pushing women with their sticks.”
Shortly before 1 p.m., St. Paul police confirmed that more than 20 people were arrested for unlawful assembly. Fifteen people were ticketed and released, but 10 remain at the Ramsey County Jail.
Police took to Twitter to say “St. Paul welcomes those who wish to demonstrate — just not while blocking street or sidewalk.”
Protesters described the officers’ actions Tuesday as “abuse,” adding that police escalated the situation, not protesters. Despite the arrests, protesters do not appear to be backing down, saying they will stay outside the governor’s residence until St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez is behind bars.
Shortly after 1 p.m., a Twitter user shared a video of a chemical irritant being sprayed at the demonstration.
At about 2 p.m., police moved from Summit and Oxford, and protesters returned to the spot in front of the governor’s mansion. WCCO’s Reg Chapman reported they shouted, “We’re back!”
Levy-Pounds refused to work with officers to clear Summit Avenue.
“The state has to understand they cannot kill people with impunity,” she said. “They cannot continue to get away with this and not expect the people to rise up.”
Summit Avenue has been closed and re-opened to traffic several times Tuesday. There was a more peaceful feeling at the scene by about 6 p.m., but about an hour later, police arrested 19 more protesters who were interfering with traffic.
Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria worker, was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, and the aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook. The video, recorded by Castile’s girlfriend, quickly went viral and prompted international outrage.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman says they will take the situation on a day-to-day basis. He says it will be St. Paul police that will decide when the protesters should leave, balancing their first-amendment rights as well as the rights of people who live in the neighborhood.
Police officials say they have a good working relationship with Black Lives Matter, and they did not want to arrest anyone Tuesday.