ST. PAUL, MINN.—The police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota—and the intense, disturbing video of its aftermath, which was circulated on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend— sparked outrage and protest in the Twin Cities overnight.
An angry, energized, but entirely peaceful crowd of more than 200 protesters gathered in front of the Governor’s Mansion in St. Paul at around 2 a.m., chanting and singing well into the morning despite a cold drizzle. Police maintained a perimeter, with squad cars blocking traffic from the street, but otherwise kept a low profile throughout.
Activists covered the iron gate entrance in crime tape as they chanted “If we don't get it / shut it down.” They were demanding that the office face prosecution and that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton address them. “Mark Dayton, do you care?” they yelled.
The crowd was diverse, and led by young black people, including Black Lives Matter organizer Adja Monsio. As the crowd streamed in, Monsio led a “I believe we will win” chant before playing Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” from a car stereo.
Jason Sole, 37, a professor at Metropolitan State University and Hamline University, was one of the activists in the crowd forming in front of the gate. He voiced a sentiment felt by many when he touched on how the Philando Castile video had come just hours after the video of the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“I was just trying to process what I saw from Alton being shot… I’ve been numb,” he told Fusion. “And I didn’t even get a chance to even try to wrap my mind around that, so for this to happen right here… It’s just like, how much more, how many more killings? People say that Minnesota is so progressive — I’m not seeing it. “
Like many of those present at the protests, Jacob Ladder, 30, had participated in the 18-day occupation of a police precinct in Minneapolis following the death of another black man, Jamar Clark, at the hands of police in November. Prosecutors declined to press charges against police in that case.
Ladder helped build a small fire by the side of the road, which kept bystanders warm on a cold, wet night. The mood shifted as the crowd began to sing songs like “Lean On Me.”
“Tonight I lit that fire because we are creating awareness,” he said. “The people need to understand that this issue, this problem, does affect them.”
Toya Woodland, a minister, said that she and the other the people in the crowd were “hurt, angry and frustrated.”
“There is no reason why a young black man should be killed in the street for a traffic stop. That’s not okay. That’s really not okay, “ she said.
When asked if she thought the Philando Castile killing would fundamentally change the dynamics for Black Lives Matter in the Twin Cities, her response was cautious, but hopeful.
“I think that only time, over the next few days, will tell. But I do know that there are a group of young people that are rising up. That don’t want to see this happen any more. They’re not having it,” she said.
By 7:00 a.m., the crowd had thinned out after hours of rain, but those who remained were still singing and chanting.
@JaredGoyette is a digital news editor at Fusion.