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Riot Charges Dropped Against I-94 Protesters

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) -- A judge has thrown out riot charges against more than 40 people who were at an interstate protest in St. Paul over the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile.

About 300 demonstrators walked onto Interstate 94 last July and blocked traffic. Some threw rocks, bottles and other things at police officers. Authorities say 16 officers were injured. Forty-six people were charged with third-degree riot, along with misdemeanor public nuisance and unlawful assembly.

Ramsey County Judge G. Tony Atwal said Wednesday that there was no evidence the 46 defendants had thrown anything at police and that simply being at the protest doesn't constitute rioting, according to the Star Tribune.

Atwal added that evidence still exists to uphold the other charges of public nuisance and unlawful assembly. The freeway was closed for nearly five hours.

The St. Paul City Attorney Samuel Clark said his office will continue to pursue those other charges against the protesters.

"Our initial offers to each of the defendants was to plead guilty to one of the misdemeanors: unlawful assembly or public nuisance. We continue to believe that offer was reasonable given the conduct involved. Judge Atwal's order doesn't change that belief," Clark said in a recent statement. "What happened that night was dangerous and unacceptable. The simple fact is that everyone who was arrested on the freeway should not have been there in the first place and should have left after receiving lawful dispersal orders."

A statement was released by a representative for the protest: "This vindicates our belief that these charges were trumped up. There is no reason that charges cannot be dropped for all protestors, and we certainly expect trumped up charges against Louis Hunter to be dropped."

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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