Thousands march after Castile verdict

After officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted for the death of Philando Castile, protests at the Capitol led to a march through the streets of St. Paul Friday, culminating in the arrests of many on I-94.

A protestor stands in front of a line of law enforcement officers in St. Paul on Friday, June 16.

Easton Green

A protestor stands in front of a line of law enforcement officers in St. Paul on Friday, June 16.

Minnesota Daily Staff

Since Philando Castile’s shooting death last July, his family, friends and the millions who watched his final minutes online waited for a verdict in the case against the officer involved.

Now, after a year of marches, hearings and a growing number of national cases with similar verdicts, anger turned into resignation. Friday’s not guilty verdict struck many as unsurprising, and thousands took to the streets in protest.

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, 29, was acquitted by a Ramsey County Court jury Friday, for the shooting death of Castile, 32, last July during a routine traffic stop.

Castile’s death was livestreamed on Facebook and drew national attention for its resemblance to the string of other high profile police shootings of black men, like Eric Garner and Jamar Clark.

“I’m incredibly disappointed with the jury’s verdict … It is a sad state of affairs when this type of criminal conduct is condoned simply because Yanez is a policeman,” said Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds in a statement.

Yanez was also found not guilty of two other lesser charges of recklessly discharging a firearm.

The verdict was met with immediate outrage and a protest held at the state Capitol in St. Paul, before moving onto Interstate 94.

Gallery: Protestors march through St. Paul and onto I-94 after Philando Castile verdict

Friday night protest

People first gathered on the Capitol steps to protest the verdict at 7 p.m. Friday night.

The rally grew to nearly 2,000 strong by 9 p.m. when demonstrators began moving west on University Avenue, away from the Capitol.

Marchers held signs reading, “Philando still matters. Yanez still guilty,” “Hand in Hand, we will fill the streets” and “When will black lives matter?”

At around 10:24 p.m., protesters moved onto I-94 without any initial police presence, but police arrived almost immediately after to redirect traffic further down the highway.

The crowd size dwindled as the night progressed and State Patrol officers halted marchers’ progress at around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Police officers arrested 18 people — including a Minnesota Daily editor, David Clarey, who was filming the protest and City Pages reporter Susan Du — for failing to leave the freeway. 

The freeway was open to vehicle traffic by around 11:44 p.m.

Last summer, another demonstration on I-94 in response to Castile’s shooting led to over 100 arrests or citations after protesters threw rocks, bricks, bottles and fireworks at police.

Different case, same result

To many demonstrators Friday, the verdict came as little surprise and fit into a larger catalog of situations between police officers and black men.

High-profile cases like the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Eric Garner ended with the acquittal of the police officer or officers involved or with the charges dropped.

In March 2016, a Hennepin County prosecutor did not file criminal charges against two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting death of Jamar Clark in Nov. 2015. 

These cases and others prompted several marches and demonstrations highlighting sentiments reiterated by those at the protest Friday.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds said at the State Capitol rally, “We have a right to be sick and tired of being sick and tired … [Gov. Mark Dayton] said we would get justice. Where is our justice, [Gov. Dayton]?”

University of Minnesota student Aurin Chowdhury said she was disgusted by the verdict, but not surprised.

“The same people keep paying this price. The system clearly isn’t working,” Chowdhury, who serves as president of Women for Political Change, said at the protest.

“The community is deeply disappointed with the jury’s verdict in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez for the death of Philando Castile and endangerment of Diamond and Dae’Anna Reynolds,” said a press release from Communities United Against Police Brutality and the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, organizations that planned the event.

State leaders and police respond

Dayton and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., released statements Friday when the Verdict was announced.

“Mr. Castile’s death was a terrible tragedy … I believe that, working together, we can make the changes necessary to secure both safety and justice, in all of our communities, for all Minnesotans,” Dayton said in the statement.

Ellison said in a statement the jury’s verdict “re-opens old wounds, on top of the scars from past injustices that make so many Black Americans feel that their lives don’t matter.”

The City of St. Anthony fired Yanez Friday afternoon.

“The public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city,” a statement released by the City of St. Anthony said.

David Clarey, Maraya King and Neha Panigrahy contributed to this report.