Judge Tosses Out I-94 Protesters’ Riot Charges

Protesters and police during the July 9, 2016 I-94 protest. Photo KSTP

St. Paul, MN –  A Ramsey county judge has thrown out the third-degree riot charges against more than 40 people involved with the violent 1-94 protest on July 9, 2016.

The Pioneer Press reports that on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2016, District Judge G. Tony Atwal filed a ruling stating that the prosecutors had not provided evidence that the individuals had thrown bottles, cement and rocks at police officers during the uprising.  The protest was one of many that occurred after Philandro Castile was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop, the aftermath of which was live streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend.

The lesser charges of public nuisance and unlawful assembly would be allowed to proceed. St. Paul City Attorney Samuel Clark told reporters that many of the originally charged 47 people have made deals – pleading guilty to lesser charges in order for the riot charge being dropped. He said he stands by that decision, “ We continue to believe that our offers to each of the defendants, which has been to plead guilty to one of the misdemeanor charges, were reasonable given the conduct, and the order doesn’t really change that belief.” (Pioneer Press)

The protest shut down I-94 for hours, causing major delays and resulted in altercations between the police and the protesters on the interstate.  Alpha News reported:

For more than five hours, protesters shut down I-94, the main interstate that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul to protest the death of Philando Castile.  Around 8PM on Saturday night, 200-300 people moved across the highly traveled highway and formed a human wall in both the east bound and west bound lanes.  The interstate was closed until 1:15AM on Sunday morning as the demonstrations turned violent.  At this time, 21 police officers were reported injured and 102 people were arrested.

Minneapolis Mayoral candidate, Nekima Levy-Pounds, applauded the judge’s actions on her Facebook page, calling it “a major victory.”

At a hearing on Thursday morning, more than 70 people who had been arrested during the July 9th protest along with others arrested during other Philandro Castile protests around the same time appeared at the St. Paul courthouse to have their cases heard.  According to the Star Tribune, the some protesters were heartened by the earlier ruling against the third-degree riot charges.  ““It’s a great win for us,” said Rachel Mueller, 27, of Minneapolis. “To have Officer Yanez charged and to have the riot charges dropped is huge. It shows protesting works.”

On July 29, 2016, Alpha News reported that the July 9th I-94 shutdown and the other protests following Castile’s death cost St. Paul taxpayers approximately $1.5 million.


Andrea Mayer-Bruestle

Andrea Mayer-Bruestle is a former writer for Alpha News.