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Minnesotans rally over Ferguson ruling; car hits woman during protest

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Students held a protest at the U of M.
Students held a protest at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis Tuesday.
Yi-Chin Lee / MPR News

Updated: 6 a.m. Wednesday | Posted: 6:15 a.m. Tuesday

From Minneapolis high school halls to Duluth City Hall, Minnesotans Tuesday protested a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The rallies Tuesday were peaceful, although a woman was hurt late this afternoon after apparently being hit by a vehicle that drove into a crowd during protests on Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis police said the woman's injuries were minor. A person believed to be the driver called police, said police spokesman Scott Seroka.

Protesters marched onto Highway 55 in Minneapolis and began lying down on the Highway near Cedar Avenue, according to the Minneapolis Police Department. The police said that both north and south lanes of Highway 55 were stopped by demonstrators at Cedar around 6 p.m.

Protests began early on Tuesday when students at Minneapolis South High School staged a morning sit-in that led to some students walking out. 

Zipporah Benson, a senior at South, said that  dozens of students sat peacefully in the hallway, talking about the shooting of the unarmed black teen.

"I don't know what happened, but I think it's right for them to sit in and protest," she said, adding that she felt the shooting directly affected her as a young person of color.

• In Ferguson: How the grand jury reached a decision

South High's school newspaper, The Southerner, reported that the students later marched to a Minneapolis police station.

Minneapolis school officials said they would not discipline students demonstrating peacefully but cautioned that students who left school would not be allowed to return that day.

The South High protest was among at least four planned across the state Tuesday objecting to the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown. 

Wilson, who's white, killed the unarmed black teenager in August, setting off a wave of protests in Ferguson and across the country.

Protesters chant "hands up don't shoot."
Protesters hold signs and chant "hands up don't shoot" in front of Northrop Auditorium.
Bridget Bennett / MPR News

On the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, students began rallying about 3 p.m.

Earlier in Duluth, Reyna Crow was one of about 20 people who took part in a protest outside Duluth City Hall. 

"I felt it was very important to get community members together, out in a visible way, and send that message that we're watching, we're concerned, and also in solidarity with the family of Mike Brown," she said.

Protesters also held a sit-in at the police department in nearby Superior, Wisconsin. They say a white police officer there had used excessive force when arresting a black woman in January. 

A video of the arrest showed him shoving the woman onto the hood of a vehicle and punching her. Last week the officer was given a 10-hour unpaid suspension.  

Professor Jason Sole outside police union offices.
Metro State professor of criminal justice Jason Sole speaks at a press conference outside of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis office on Nov. 25, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn.
Yi-Chin Lee / MPR News

More than a dozen people demonstrated this morning outside the headquarters of the Minneapolis Police Federation.  Members of the group called for the police union president, Lt. John Delmonico, to apologize for remarks he made in a KSTP TV news story  that claimed Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was flashing a gang sign. 

The Rev. Jen Crow of First Universalist Church says the controversy known as #pointergate and the exoneration of the white police officer in Ferguson are related.

"Pointergate and Ferguson have shown us, again, how differently white lives and black and brown lives are valued," she said. "They have shown us all of this and more."

Jason Sole, a criminal justice professor at Metro State University, agreed that #pointergate and the Ferguson shooting show police officers have little respect for black men.

A sign is rolled out in front of Coffman Union.
A sign is rolled out in front of Coffman Union that lists names of Minnesota's that have "lost lives through encounters with enforcement authorities."
Bridget Bennett / MPR News

  "Today is a tough day for me," Sole said. "I haven't had much sleep at all, due to the grand jury decision in Ferguson. My heart is heavy, because I know there are many police officers who feel that they can do whatever they so choose to men of color who seek a slice of the American dream."

Sole and other protesters called for an end to racial profiling and for police departments to hold officers accountable for misconduct.  

Video: Sights and sounds from the U protest

Reies Romero, an Augsburg College student helping to organize on of Tuesday's protests, said the event is about more than just Ferguson. It's about the way police relate to young people of color all over the country, he said.

  "The youth that I work with, the youth that I encounter every day, have a real hatred toward the police," he said. "OK? And it's not like they just made that up. It's about how the police treat them."

In a statement, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said that it's important for the public to be heard on this matter, and that law enforcement needs public support to be effective.

At a separate protest in St. Paul, more than 100 people marched west down University Avenue from the State Capitol. 

Among them was 49-year-old Bill Skadden of Maplewood, who said he couldn't muster an opinion about whether Wilson was justified in shooting Brown. 

"Honestly, I don't know enough about the facts to decide one way or another if it was the right thing to do." 

Skadden says he took part in last night's protest simply to call for peace. He says both police and citizens resort to violence far too often.