ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in St. Paul caused tense moments between police and hundreds of protesters as their rally disrupted light-rail and interstate traffic.
As part of a national wave of similar protests, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis led more than 500 people down one of St. Paul's main thoroughfares to the state Capitol, decrying — among other cases — the killing of Marcus Golden by St. Paul police last week. The marchers used the rally and King's legacy to press a point about policing tactics they say have gone overboard and led to the deaths of young men in Minnesota and elsewhere.
"They didn't protect Marcus. They didn't serve him," Michael McDowell, a protest organizer, told a crowd gathered in the middle of a high-traffic intersection before the march began. Police have said Golden drove his car at officers before they shot him.
The march that started near Hamline University ended at the state Capitol with a candlelit vigil for Golden. Along the way, organizers attempted to lead the group onto Interstate 94 but met a blockade of state troopers at two entrance ramps. Traffic on the highway was nonetheless briefly shut down.
The Minnesota State Patrol declined to say how many officers they dispatched for the rally. Photos from the march showed dozens of troopers blocking off the freeway with squad cars.
A mix of young and old faces, carrying signs and chanting, cheered as they saw traffic disappear. The protest also temporarily halted parts of the Green Line train service running between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis released a list of demands a few days before the march. Among other things, the group wants an independent community board with disciplinary power to review police actions and bias and cultural competency training for Minnesota officers.
Added to that list was a call for statewide adoption of police body cameras, which are already being used in Duluth and tested in Minneapolis.
The group also wants Bloomington's city attorney to drop charges against more than 30 people charged in connection with a protest at the Mall of America the weekend before Christmas. Authorities have said they'll continue prosecuting the trespassing cases because the mall is private property.
But Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, at a separate Martin Luther King event earlier in the day, said meaningful civil rights changes — for blacks, women and same-sex couples — have only come through the disruption of social norms.
The Democratic Congressman didn't name the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis group but lauded protesters fighting for racial equality.
"They're putting their lives on the line," he said. "And sometimes they disrupt traffic; they make a lot of noise. They're trying to get our attention."
The march was personal for many. Dominique Burch, a 17-year-old marcher, said she participated in the Martin Luther King Day protest because she feels uneasy around police. Burch said she wants her brother to be able to walk down city streets without being harassed.
On a day dedicated to celebrating a civil rights leader, many said Minnesota and the nation as a whole still have far to go before minorities can feel truly equal to their white peers.
"If we keep focused and don't get sidetracked, this could be the start of something good," said Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul branch of the NAACP.