A group of Minnesota Democrats wrote to Gov. Tim Walz this week to express their frustration with the arrest of more than 600 protesters who shut down Interstate 94 Wednesday.
Protesters marched through Minneapolis Wednesday night for more than an hour before finally entering the freeway near eastbound I-94 and Riverside Avenue. Law enforcement formed a line across both lanes of the freeway and down the median, effectively surrounding the mass of protesters.
The Minnesota State Patrol said Thursday morning that 646 people were cited and released for trespassing and unlawful assembly.
The “multi-jurisdictional law enforcement operation” was led by the State Patrol, according to a letter sent to Gov. Walz Friday by 23 Democratic lawmakers and five Minneapolis City Council members.
“The decisions made by your administration were the opposite of what we want in response to a protest: police and troopers escalated the situation rather than de-escalating it. Choosing to kettle protesters on I-94, after failing to give an order to disperse, turned what could have been 20 minutes of getting people off the highway into a five-hour ordeal where more than 600 people were arrested and ticketed,” says the letter.
“These choices wasted public resources and added further strain to the fragile relationship between police and community members, especially in this part of South Minneapolis located just blocks from the 3rd Precinct,” it continues.
The letter claims that the actions of law enforcement, including “the use of chemical irritants” and a lack of face masks, “endangered the health of protesters, including children who were present.” In a previous statement, the State Patrol said “no force or chemicals were used and no protesters or law enforcement were injured.”
The lawmakers thanked Walz for issuing citations “instead of taking hundreds of people into custody,” but said the “entire operation was in stark contrast to well-known rules of engagement with peaceful protesters.”
“The people of Minnesota look to you for leadership in these situations. If law enforcement agencies are not conducting operations in a way that reflects the values and priorities of our state, we expect that you will use your ability to command them to stand down,” states the letter.
It concludes by requesting an “interactive public forum in which we and our constituents can interface directly with you.”
One of the arrested protesters was charged with shining a laser into a police officer’s eyes, while another kicked an officer in the groin, the Star Tribune reported.
100s of law enforcement officers under the guidance of the State Patrol spent hours arresting, photographing and ticketing more than 600 peaceful protestors on I-94 without issuing a dispersal order.
Many colleagues joined me today in sending this letter to the administration. pic.twitter.com/pQUxmZluvX
— Aisha Gomez (@RepAishaGomez) November 6, 2020