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Black Lives Matter: Protest, but no disruption of Twin Cities Marathon

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Rashad Turner
Black Lives Matter St. Paul leader Rashad Turner, pictured here during a demonstration at the Minnesota State Fair, spent several hours meeting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman Thursday. Protesters at Sunday's Twin Cities Marathon have agreed to stay off the course.
Courtney Perry | File for MPR News

Updated 4:12 p.m. | Posted 12:43 p.m.

Black Lives Matter protesters will be present at the end of the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday but will not interrupt the marathon or disturb runners, the protest's organizer said Thursday after meeting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Protesters have agreed to stay off the course. They'll have a space on the Capitol mall near the finish line but will not interrupt the race, Coleman and Black Lives Matter St. Paul leader Rashad Turner told reporters following their meeting.

Tensions over the group's plans had been escalating the past few days. Turner, in earlier interviews, said he believed the marathon was an appropriate place to air the group's concerns about recent alleged police brutality in St. Paul. He'd declined to say whether Black Lives Matter would try to prevent runners from finishing the race.

On Wednesday, Coleman and St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith warned that any attempt by the group to disrupt the marathon would be dangerous and met with arrests.

After meeting for more than two hours on Thursday with the mayor and with former NAACP St. Paul leader Nathaniel Khaliq, Turner said that the group's concerns had been heard at St. Paul City Hall and across the state.

"All week that awareness is being created, by the media, by people in the community talking about it," Turner said. "There are elementary schools up in northern Minnesota whose teachers are saying, 'Hey, you guys are getting this dialogue going again.'"

Marathon runner Ralph Imholte of Minneapolis says he welcomes peaceful protests at the race but was conflicted when he first heard about the demonstration. He says he understands that it's not fair to compare the disruption of runners trying to finish a race to the plight of people suffering from inequality.

"But taking that and saying that that trumps anything else and ... you have to conform to our idea of what your priorities should be. That rankled me. And I think that rankled a lot of people," Imholte said.

Jenzi Silverman of St. Louis Park is preparing to run in her eighth Twin Cities Marathon. She says she's glad to hear demonstrators have promised to stay off the course.

"All they're doing is exercising their 1st Amendment right to say what's on their mind, and not trying to ruin anybody else's day while doing it — just trying to make the public aware of who they are and why they're out there and what their message is."

St. Paul police officials have warned they will arrest anyone who interferes with the race. However, police made no arrests earlier this year when members of Black Lives Matter St. Paul blocked traffic at the State Fair and when activists disrupted the Metro Transit Green Line by lying on the tracks.