The arrests this week of nearly 70 protesters gathered outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion in St. Paul are the latest reminder of unrest as demonstrators near the one-month mark of demanding justice in a black man’s police shooting death.
St. Paul police took 23 people into custody early Wednesday for public nuisance and unlawful assembly. That followed the arrests of 46 protesters Tuesday over similar allegations. The arrests add to a tally that stretches back to earlier this month when a massive march on Interstate 94 shut down the freeway.
Here’s a look at the weeks of protests since Philando Castile’s fatal shooting by a suburban St. Paul police officer and the status of the investigation into the death:
Castile, 32, was fatally shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath live on Facebook and said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID after telling the officer he had a gun permit and was armed. He died at a hospital.
Yanez’s attorney, Tom Kelly, has said Yanez, who is Latino, was reacting to the presence of a gun and that one reason Yanez pulled Castile over was because he thought he looked like a “possible match” for an armed robbery suspect.
Authorities are not saying much as the Castile shooting investigation nears the one-month mark. A spokeswoman from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension declined comment Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation, and said she couldn’t provide an estimate on how long the probe may take. Once the state’s inquiry is complete, it will be up to a local county attorney to decide whether to charge Yanez.
The size of the protest crowds outside Gov. Mark Dayton’s residence have gone up and down since the day after Castile’s death. Protesters have used the mansion as their headquarters to call for Yanez to be punished.
After nearly two weeks of protests, St. Paul police cleared out the area early last week only to see protesters return on Sunday. Police told them Tuesday morning that they could no longer block the street and demonstrators began to gather their belongings, police spokesman Steve Linders said.
The State Patrol, which provides security at the governor’s residence, also removed posters and other memorials to Castile from the fence surrounding the mansion.
The preliminary cost of the protests to St. Paul has risen to $1.5 million, a $500,000 jump in the past week. Of that amount, $1.3 million was for police costs through Tuesday, according to Tonya Tennessen, spokeswoman for Mayor Chris Coleman.
In all, 69 arrests were made between Tuesday and early Wednesday for such offenses as public nuisance and unlawful assembly. Sgt. Michael Ernster said some were cited and released, while others who may have obstructed arrests or had outstanding warrants were taken to jail.
The arrests follow previous demonstrations that snarled traffic on Interstate 35 in Minneapolis and 94 in St. Paul. Police have made more than 150 arrests during protests since Castile’s death.
UNREST NOT NEW
The rallies protesting Castile’s death and the response they’ve received from police echo the fallout from the fatal police shooting of another black man in the Twin Cities. After 24-year-old Jamar Clark was killed by Minneapolis police in November in an incident officers described as a scuffle, protesters surrounded a local police precinct office for weeks, leading to some violent interactions between demonstrators and police.
St. Paul police have said protests are fine on Summit Avenue, where the governor’s residence sits, as long as traffic is allowed to pass through and no tents or other structures are set up. Gov. Dayton has expressed the same view. Protesters say they were complying with police orders when the arrests began Tuesday.
It’s unclear how far off a decision on whether to charge Yanez may be. First up, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi needs to decide whether he’ll make that choice himself or leave it to a grand jury _ a prospect that protesters are pushing to avoid, saying it too often leads to officers not being charged.
Choi has said he’ll need time to decide which approach he’ll take. With the Clark shooting, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced in March he would not use a grand jury to consider that case or future ones involving police shootings in the county. Then later that month, Freeman declined to prosecute the two white police officers involved in Clark’s shooting.