***UPDATE TO I-94 RIOT STORY***
On Saturday night, the St. Paul Police Twitter feed announced that a police officer who had a concrete chunk dropped on his head during the I-94 riots had a broken vertebrae. Now, the Pioneer Press reports that the police officer sustained a “spinal compression injury” and not a fractured spine.
The University of Minnesota Police Department gave an update on the officer’s condition and said that the officer was “cleared to return (to work) but he’s taking a couple of days off.”
The police officer’s injury was the most serious of the night. He was wearing a helmet when he was struck by a concrete chunk, which weighed about 25 pounds. The concrete was thought to have been dropped from a pedestrian bridge over the highway, police said.
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.
St. Paul police said that objects were thrown at the officers including fireworks, Molotov cocktails, rebar and rocks. One protester used a laser sight and pointed it at officers. Other protesters standing on an overpass, poured liquids on police. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman confirmed that at least three of the injured police officers were sent to area hospitals.
It is estimated that about 200 people were blocking both the eastbound and westbound lands of the busy interstate. Some people climbed fences to join in the protest on the highway while a dozen or so police cars with lights flashing lined up a few yards away. Hundreds more lined up along the roadway to watch the events unfold. Police addressed the crowds via loudspeaker asking them to vacate the interstate. As the protest continued, several officers dressed in riot gear marched on the crowd.
As of 9:15PM, the State Patrol issued its 12th order to vacate the interstate, but the protesters were not moving. “Black Lives Matter” posted on Twitter “We shut down 94 for Philando. We are gonna need bail money. Please make a gift now.”
St. Paul Police started using glass balls with smoke on the I-94 protesters. They did not use tear gas, according to the St. Paul Police Department.
The St. Paul Police Department’s Twitter feed said that 21 officers from multiple agencies were injured on I-94 and in other areas of the city and that 52 people were arrested for public nuisance and unlawful assembly during an incident at 4AM on Grand Avenue and Dale Street in St. Paul.
The interstate was cleared of protesters by 12:30AM on Sunday. Debris from the melee had to be cleared off the roadway. Police say they made 50 arrests on the interstate. Those who were arrested on the interstate were booked on third-degree rioting.
There were about 200 police officers who were on hand to disperse crowds and make arrests during the protests including those from nearby cities.
After the demonstration on the interstate, protesters went to Summit Avenue to the Governor’s Mansion to renew calls for peaceful protests. A group of about 100 protesters left the Governor’s residence to march down Grand Avenue, chanting “We’re just taking a walk!” Police and State Troopers met the protesters at Dale Street and took between 40 to 50 people into custody, but they were later tagged and released.
Follow Alpha News as we continue to report on this story as more details become available.