Complaints aplenty after freeway protest

Addressing complaints about I94 protest

ST. PAUL, Minn. - In a press conference Tuesday, Governor Dayton expressed concern over the dangers of the Black Lives Matter freeway protest and said he discussed the situation with his staff.

"I am very uncomfortable with the fact it happened. I deeply regret it happened," said Governor Dayton.

Dayton praised the Minnesota State Patrol for showing restraint and giving ample warning to the hundreds of protesters linking arms across 94 to block traffic during the sit-in.

"To put other lives at risk and shutting it down is extremely dangerous and I pray we will do everything possible prevent from happening again," said Dayton.

Minnesota State Patrol spokesperson Lt. Tiffani Schweigart said the protest was even more dangerous with low level light conditions, heavy traffic, wet roadways and light rain. She stated the Minnesota State Patrol responded as soon as they knew people were entering the freeway, and some 24 law enforcement agencies helped control protesters.

"In the United States, we have ample opportunity for first amendment rights to be honored and ample space for protesters to occupy space that's safe for them, and the freeway is not one of those options," said Lt. Schweigart.

Over loudspeakers, troopers gave protesters a 15 minute warning to disperse and exit the freeway. Lt. Schweigart said the protesters damaged trooper squad cars after throwing rocks and she said one trooper was punched by a protester who fled the scene.

"Even though I'm behind them, this is not the way to do it," said Pam Klocek, of Osseo, a driver stopped in traffic. "It puts a bigger divide between people and I think it's time they realize this is not the way to do it."

The 42 people arrested will now face charges of unlawful assembly and pedestrians on the freeway.

Before many in the sit-in were arrested, they shouted, "We have nothing to lose but our chains."

Civil rights attorney and University of St. Thomas professor Nekima Levy-Pounds stood before the protesters with her hands raised, waiting for troopers to arrest her first. Levy-Pounds has long been the voice and spokesperson of Black Lives Matter, and also serves as Minneapolis NAACP President.

"Hire some people of color on this force," she told the troopers. "This looks a scene from Selma, all white State troopers. We are Ferguson and we've been Ferguson for a long time. We are tired of this."


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