The founder of St. Paul’s Black Lives Matter chapter denounced the violent protesters who blocked a major interstate and attacked police officers Saturday night in the Twin Cities, saying they did a disservice to the officers trying to maintain order and that their actions did nothing to further the group’s goals.
Rashad Turner, who leads Black Lives Matter in St. Paul, tells TIME that he blames much of the violence on people who he says weren’t from the area.
“There were people outside of the community I didn’t recognize,” he says. “They were doing stupid stuff, and it’s something we don’t tolerate.”
More than 100 people were arrested late Saturday and into Sunday after protesters marched from the Minnesota governor’s mansion toward I-94, which connects St. Paul and Minneapolis. The protests followed days of largely peaceful demonstrations after the death last week of Philando Castile, who was killed by police officers following a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul. Video of the shooting’s aftermath was posted to Facebook Live by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds.
On Saturday around 9 p.m., protesters began blocking traffic in both directions along I-94, leading to a stand-off between demonstrators and St. Paul police. Twenty-one officers were injured after demonstrators set off fireworks, threw bricks and bottles from pedestrian overpasses, and wielded rebar from a nearby construction site.
“The occupation and shutting down of Interstate 94 last night were unlawful and extremely dangerous,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement. “I urge all Minnesotans to remain calm and peaceful during this very difficult time.”
At a news conference Sunday morning, St. Paul police held up a bent and damaged police badge to illustrate the violence. One of the officers who was hit with concrete suffered broken vertebrae, police said later on Sunday.
“I just can’t believe this occurred,” said Todd Axtell, St. Paul’s chief of police. “This is just something that doesn’t happen in St. Paul.”
Critics of the Black Lives Matter movement say that the group’s rhetoric and tone have encouraged violence against police in St. Paul and around the country. Turner says he was in regular contact with the St. Paul police chief to help authorities respond to violent protesters. He also praised the police response, saying they showed “great restraint” and did their best to de-escalate the situation.
“People are angry,” Turner says. “People are emotional. But we would never encourage violence. There are other ways to channel that anger.”
He described one incident in which a large chunk of concrete was thrown from a pedestrian overpass, hitting an officer in the chest.
“I heard it clear as day from 500 feet away,” Turner says. “That type of stuff we can’t have. Violence is never going to get us anywhere.”
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