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Police groups condemn 'pig in a blanket' chant

Minnesota police organizations condemn "pigs in a blanket" chant used by some at Black Lives Matter march.
Scene from Saturday's Black Lives Matter march

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Police organizations are condemning a chant used by some of the protesters at the Black Lives Matter march to the Minnesota State Fair Saturday.

Some demonstrators chanted, "Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon." The chant was posted to Twitter and evoked a stern reaction of police who believed "pigs in a blanket" is code for officers in body bags.

Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, called the chant "deplorable and threatening." He said he'd heard from dozens of police officers across Minnesota who were personally offended by it.

"We are confident that the vast majority of Minnesotans would agree that these abhorrent comments were offensive and inappropriate," Flaherty added.

The head of the St. Paul Police officers' union, also issued a harsh rebuke to the chant.

"The chant is disgusting. It's insulting and disgusting that anyone would hold such a point of view and promote such an act of violence against police officers," Officer Dave Titus, the president of the St. Paul Police Federation, told KARE.

He pointed out the night before the march Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Daron Goforth had been shot to death execution style in Houston, and that slaying was fresh on the minds of the officers who conducted traffic control for the parade.

"The officers that are there to protect this march are hearing the change about violence against the police. It's just ridiculous."

March organizer Rashad Turner, of Black Lives Matter of St. Paul, said the chant was misinterpreted.

"It's not about killing officers. It's more to say our criminal justice system, our court system, treats black people a certain way," Turner told KARE.

"If we're accused of killing a police officer, we're in jail, they throw away the key, there's no bail. The officer in Cincinnati, charged with killing a black motorist, got out on bail a couple days later."

Turner asserted those taking offense to the chant are overreacting, because it was being recited by a small group of protesters for a short time, and wasn't something heard throughout the entire march by a larger number of protesters.

He also pointed out that Commander Joshua Lagoe laughed it off at the time, telling protesters, "police like bacon too." Lagoe's initial reaction was documented on Twitter by Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Nelson.

"Commander Lagoe kind made light of the situation. I think the situation got blown out of proportion after that," Turner remarked.

But Turner didn't distance himself from those marchers, as police had expected him to do. He said the outrage over the remark was part of an effort to detract from the fact that the march was peaceful.

"We've got to keep our eyes on the prize and not be distracted by people who want to stop the movement, people who don't want to see justice for all people."

Officer Titus said charged rhetoric won't help the shared goal of building trust and relationships between law enforcement and communities of color.

"It's just disappointing that some of these protesters are finding us to be the enemy."

The St. Paul branch of Black Lives Matters plans a protest at the Governor's Residence at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, in order to demand an apology from Gov. March Dayton for calling the march "inappropriate."

Dayton made the remarks Friday, a day before the march, during a live interview with MPR at the State Fair. Dayton said the group had a right to expect more black vendors at the fair, and that the fair's management should be able to document how many black vendors there are.

But he followed that by saying the time to pose those questions was weeks or months earlier, rather than created a traffic disruption on a busy Saturday at the fair.

"We think it's ridiculous that he's never opened his mouth to say black lives matter," Turner said.

When reminded that Dayton has appointed two black women to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Turner said putting people in key positions isn't the same as changing the system.

The governor's staff said he has previously scheduled meetings Tuesday afternoon, and doesn't expect to be at the residence when the protesters gather there.