Black Lives Matter demonstration marches to State Fair

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BlackFair protestors stand at the locked main gate
BlackFair protestors stand at the locked main gates of the fair.
Courtney Perry for MPR News

Updated: 5:24 p.m. | Posted: 10:51 a.m.

The Black Lives Matter demonstration at the State Fair has ended, and the crowd of about 325 marchers has dispersed after a peaceful protest at the fairgrounds.

The march began this morning at Hamline Park in St. Paul. Demonstrators marched one and a half miles up Snelling Avenue to the fairground. They were escorted by St. Paul Police on bikes and horses.

At one point, the group deviated from their announced route and gathered in front of the gates on Como Avenue. Some protesters attempted to enter the fair, but were stopped by police.

After pausing on Como Avenue, the group gathered at the Snelling Avenue entrance for a number of speeches by organizers of Black Lives Matter - St. Paul. Organizers called for body cameras on all city police officers. They also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the fatal police shooting of Marcus Golden last January.

After the speeches, the demonstrators marched back down Snelling Avenue and returned to Hamline Park. The crowd then dispersed and all roads have been re-opened.

Protestors held hands in solidarity before leaving
BlackFair protestors held hands in solidarity before leaving the main gates of Minnesota State Fair.
Courtney Perry for MPR News

Rashad Turner with Black Lives Matter - St. Paul organized the demonstration. He said he hoped the fair will bring wider awareness of racial disparities, poverty and police community relations.

"We thought the State Fair represented a venue that represented a lot of people, a lot of people from rural Minnesota, who maybe haven't had the opportunity to get engaged or kind of hear the messages of what's going on in the black community," Turner said.

Speaking in a bullhorn organizer 25-year-old Mica Grimm said the Black Lives Matter gatherings are far from stunts to garner publicity. "People think we like being in the streets. People think we like marching. I don't want to march. I just don't want to worry about my little brother getting killed in the streets and nothing happening," Grimm said.

Police said there were no injuries or arrests.

Fair officials say a protest by Black Lives Matter did little to disrupt the opening weekend of the Minnesota State Fair.

Fair general manager Jerry Hammer said he thought the police response to let the protesters leave on their own was appropriate, and arrests were unnecessary.

"Why go to that level really, there's really no need to," said Hammer.

Hammer said the main complaint from people at the Fair was the noise from the news helicopters.