ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) – Nearly 70 protesters have been arrested in St. Paul since police in the city began clearing out an occupation in front of the governor's mansion that's been in place since the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile.
Early on Wednesday morning, St. Paul police say they arrested 23 people for public nuisance and unlawful assembly. During the day Tuesday, they arrested at least 46 others who refused to leave the area in front of Gov. Mark Dayton's residence on Summit Avenue.
The street has been closed repeatedly due to protesters since July 6, when a police officer fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a St. Paul suburb. The aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook, prompting international outrage in the wake of other police killings of black men.
"This is our avenue to say what we want, to speak our peace, because our leaders are not speaking for us anymore," said protest leader Dane McLain overnight Tuesday. "And there needs to be new leadership in this country, and maybe it starts right here, maybe it starts at the governor's mansion."
The governor, who is currently at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, said the protesters are welcome to stay outside his residence. St. Paul officials say Dayton was not involved in the decision to clear Summit Avenue.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman says protesters have a right to demonstrate outside the governor's mansion, but it becomes a problem when they block the road, sidewalk and bike lanes.
"While we recognize their right to be there, they have to do it within the bounds of the law," Coleman said.
Specifically, St. Paul authorities want there to be no chairs, tents, fire pits or tarps at the protest site – anything that could be considered part of a permanent occupation.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis NAACP, said that after Castile's death, the government "can't expect that the people aren't going to rise up."
Early Tuesday morning, police began clearing the protesters from Summit Avenue, which they had blocked over the weekend with a candlelight vigil for Castile. At around 10:30 a.m., the arrests began after police say a protester removed a "no parking" sign from Summit Avenue.
As officers attempted to arrest that protester, the others locked arms, forming a human chain. Video from the scene shows officers dragging protesters away. Later, police tore down signs and tarps that had been put on the fence outside the governor's mansion.
Throughout the afternoon, more and more protesters were arrested as they refused to leave the area. They were loaded onto buses and driven away from the scene. St. Paul police say some were cited and released, while others with outstanding warrants or obstructed arrests were taken to jail.
After a peaceful evening, the next batch of arrests happened around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. Again, protesters were bused away from Summit Avenue.
As of noontime Wednesday, the situation was calm outside the governor's residence, but Summit Avenue remained blocked by police, who retained a heavy presence in the are. Nearby, a small group of protesters was sitting out on a stretch of grass near a sidewalk.
Castile, a 32-year-old lunch room worker, was shot by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting.
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