Protesters march in support of boy, 10, hit by pepper spray

Dyvonte Clinton and Susan Montgomery
Dyvonte Clinton, 10, and his mother Susan Montgomery hugged and wiped away tears during a Black Lives Matter and the Black Liberation Project protest at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Thursday, May 14, 2015.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

Many protesters came up to Taye Clinton Thursday to tell him he was a hero.

The 10-year-old was hit by a chemical irritant when a Minneapolis police officer sprayed protesters at a rally the night before, his mother Susan Montgomery said.

On Wednesday night Taye and his mother were part of a Black Lives Matter and the Black Liberation Project march down Seventh Street to protest Wisconsin authorities' decision not to charge a white Madison officer in the killing of a 19-year-old biracial man.

Taye, who's also biracial, says he was frightened.

"At least I got Maced and not shot," he said.

Thursday's rally and march were held as a response to Wednesday's alleged police violence and to support Taye. It brought out about 75 protesters, including parents with infants, toddlers and school age children in tow.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Jess Banks, a St. Paul mother of a 12- and a 9-year-old, brought one of her sons to Thursday's protest. She said she wanted to use her "privilege as a white person" to stand up for Taye.

"If our kids can't be safe expressing their own First Amendment rights then my answer to that is to bring more of them," she said. "There is no reason my sons should be any safer because of the color of their skin than their black and brown friends."

Protesters in Minneapolis
Protesters marched in downtown Minneapolis chanting "black lives matter" and "hands up, don't shoot" Thursday, May 14, 2015.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

Claudio Rivera of Minneapolis met Taye at Wednesday's rally and tried to help by giving the boy milk to pour over his eyes. He showed up again to support him Thursday, giving him hugs, shaking his hand and cheering him on.

Rivera said police spraying chemicals was "uncalled for and surprised everybody" because Wednesday's rally started out peaceful.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said she will launch an investigation into what happened. But president-elect of the Minneapolis Police Federation, Lt. Bob Kroll, said officers were outnumbered by hostile demonstrators who were damaging property.

Taye and his mother said they weren't involved in any of the property damage activities. He said he didn't want to get hurt by burning flags or standing in the middle of traffic.

Rivera said the police launching an investigation is encouraging, but the union's message is not.

"The head of the union is already pretty much saying that it's going to be found to be justified," he said. "They're going to find exactly what they want to find."

Thursday's protesters huddled underneath umbrellas on a chilly and drizzly evening to kick off the protest at the Government Center plaza. They began with a prayer and songs.

As the protesters started to march through downtown, police closed streets around the marchers' route. The group first blocked the Fifth Street South and Third Avenue intersection. A Green Line light rail stopped directly behind them.

Some motorists shared their frustration with marchers. One said he was late to work when one protester laid on the ground to stop him from driving across the street. He told the group he was OK with people marching, but didn't like that they completely blocked traffic.

Others didn't seem to be bothered. The event was over at about 8:30 p.m.

Correction (May 15): The original version of this story misspelled Claudio Rivera's name. The story has been updated.