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Klobuchar calls off Minnesota rally as protesters take over stage

St. Louis Park, Minnesota —  This wasn't the homecoming Senator Amy Klobuchar hoped for. Her presidential campaign was forced to cancel a rally here Sunday night when more than 50 protesters derailed the event, leading chants on stage of "Black Lives Matter" and "Klobuchar has got to go."

For over an hour, activists butted heads with supporters who countered with chants of "Amy, Amy."

Protesters donning signs reading "Guilty until proven innocent" and "Free Myon" told CBS News they aimed to bring attention to Klobuchar's record as Hennepin County Attorney. In that role, the Minnesota prosecutor oversaw the case of Myon Burrell, a black teenager convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in 2002 for the death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards. She was shot in her home.

An Associated Press investigation last month uncovered new evidence and revealed flaws in the police investigation.

"Amy Klobuchar is not as progressive as she seems," Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond told CBS News. "We're talking about someone who wants to be president of the United States, and yet you're from a state that has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation and the lead prosecutor convicting a 16 year old who was innocent of the crime." The Minneapolis NAACP called for the suspension of Klobuchar's campaign last month.

Presidential Candidate Amy Klobuchar Campaigns In MN Ahead Of Super Tuesday
ST LOUIS PARK, MN - MARCH 01: Protestors on stage during a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on March 1, 2020 in St Louis Park, Minnesota.  Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

Klobuchar has defended her record as prosecutor in recent weeks, calling for the evidence to be looked at again. "All of the evidence needs to be immediately reviewed in that case, the past evidence and any new evidence that has come forward," she told ABC's "The View" last month.

Minneapolis civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong called the senator's record as Hennepin County Attorney "disqualifying." During her eight year tenure as top Minneapolis prosecutor, there were at least two dozen instances of police involved shootings of civilians, though none of the officers were prosecuted.

"The impact of her time in office has been felt by the African American community and beyond," Armstrong told CBS News. "She gave a pass to so many police officers who shot and killed civilians during her tenure, not holding them accountable."

As protests continued past Klobuchar's slated speaking time Sunday night, campaign organizers made loudspeaker announcements "reminding" audience members that this was a private event. Crowds of supporters applauded loudly, at times whistling and cheering, in hopes of dispelling the disruption.

Behind the scenes, campaign officials attempted to arrange a deal with activists, offering Burrell's family and protest leaders the opportunity to speak directly with Klobuchar.

Just two days away from Super Tuesday -- Minnesota's turn to cast its ballot in the Democratic primary -– hundreds of attendees headed home without hearing from the candidate.

"We had a negotiation and had an agreement with the organizers of the protest to meet with the Senator on site," Klobuchar campaign manager Justin Buoen told reporters. "She was in the room ready to meet with them. And then they changed the terms and decided that they didn't want to meet with her."

Redmond told CBS News protesters requested that Burrell's case be explained on stage during the campaign event, as part of their terms. "And when we asked them to let either us or them acknowledge Myon Burrell on stage – to say who he is and why the protesters are here – they said they would cancel the event," Redmond stated. "It was on them. They chose to cancel the event."

After a third place finish in predominantly white New Hampshire, Klobuchar has struggled to attract the support of African American and Hispanic coalitions, finishing a distant sixth in contests in majority-minority states Nevada and South Carolina.

In recent national polls, Klobuchar's support among black and Hispanic voters has been 1% or less.

On Tuesday, Klobuchar will face her toughest test yet when the biggest single-day delegate haul of the primary is up for grabs, and black and Hispanic voters will play a large role in many of the states involved.

Asked if the St. Louis Park protests illustrated Klobuchar's struggle to attract black and brown voters, Buoen remarked, "I don't know that one event is emblematic of anything."

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