Demonstrators Arrested In Minneapolis After Hundreds Walk Onto I-94 In Protest Of Election
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Hundreds of protesters marched from two different Minneapolis locations Wednesday night to protest the presidential election -- before converging onto Interstate 94 and being arrested.
WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle said two groups of protesters, led by Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, were expected to march two miles -- one beginning on Cedar Avenue in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, and the other at the Hennepin County Government Center downtown -- then loop back. The exact route wasn't disclosed.
Protesters began gathering at the sites at about 6 p.m., and then began marching at about 7:15 p.m.
At about 7:40 p.m., hundreds began to walk out onto eastbound Interstate 94 at Cedar Avenue, leading to traffic being backed up for miles.
By about 8:15 p.m., WCCO's Jeff Wagner said animosity began to brew between protesters and law enforcement, with many refusing to sit down.
He said riot gear-clad law enforcement were also on the interstate, keeping about a 50-yard distance from protesters. At about 8 p.m., WCCO crews saw dozens of protesters attempt to scale fences to get off the interstate as officers approached.
About five minutes later, police announced on loud speakers that everyone on the interstate needed to sit down and prepare to be arrested. Drivers were also told to turn their vehicles off. Westbound I-94 was then shut down as well.
At about 8:25 p.m., Minnesota State Patrol troopers began to make arrests on the eastbound side of the interstate, near the Riverside Avenue exit. State patrol officials estimated, at about 8:40 p.m., that 200 protesters were on the interstate.
At about 9 p.m., demonstrators apparently struck a deal with law enforcement to allow protesters who have children at home, and juveniles, to be arrested and processed quickly. Soon after, the Minnesota State Patrol made a statement on Twitter, saying, "Walking on the freeway is illegal and very dangerous for pedestrians and motorists. We respect the right of everyone to express themselves under the First Amendment, but the freeway is not a place to do that."
Approximately 200 protesters and dozens of media members were still completely surrounded by law enforcement on the interstate as of 11 p.m. The protesters were slowly being arrested, while the media are not being allowed to exit the interstate.
As protesters waited, an impromptu dance party broke out.
The arrest effort is expected to last for hours, and it's not clear if protesters will be brought to a detention center, or simply arrested and released.
Mayerle said the response from law enforcement is one that had been planned for weeks in the lead up to possible unrest stemming from the presidential election -- which accounted for the swift response for several agencies.
Earlier this week, organizers said they were going to demonstrate regardless of the outcome of the election, using chants such as, "Don't let Trump steal the election," and, "A Biden win will not give the freedom we demand."
Organizers said they want to see Biden win, but that it won't immediately change the lives of oppressed people and all the issues they face.
On top of the election, the group said it's fighting a trifecta of a pandemic, racism and the recession. There is also an underlying aspect of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Organizers said they wanted to channel that energy they have had since late May through Wednesday night and beyond.
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