Opposing protests in St. Paul call for supporting or defunding police

A man with a megaphone at a protest.
Maurice Anderson speaks into a megaphone during a protest outside of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Opposing groups of protesters faced off for several hours Saturday afternoon outside the Governor's Residence in St. Paul.

One group was there for a "Support the Police" rally, sponsored in part by the group Bikers for 45 Minnesota, which backs President Trump.

A counterprotest drew people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and defunding police, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the deaths of other Black people at the hands of police.

Fences separate protesters.
Protesters supporting the police (left) and supporting Black Lives Matter (right) face off outside of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul on Saturday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The two groups shouted their views — and shouted at each other — while mostly separated by fencing and St. Paul police officers.

Noah McCourt, a mental health and disability rights advocate, was part of the counterprotest calling for significant changes in public safety. He said officials have been too quick to just blame police unions for eroding community trust, and not take a broader view.

"It's really easy to sit there and point fingers, but the fact of the matter is the union is one piece of the issue — and the city council in Minneapolis and the state Legislature and the policies and the practices that we continue to pass that are systemically racist are also another part of the problem," he said.

Tom Blondell of Rochester took part in the pro-police rally; he traveled to the Twin Cities with Bikers for 45. Blondell blamed city officials and police department leadership for failing to regain public trust in the wake of Floyd’s death.

"That's what I feel about the police all over the country — it isn't the police officers themselves, its the administrators; in other words, it's corruption," he said.

Minneapolis City Council members voted unanimously Friday in support of a proposal to change the city charter to allow the Police Department to be dismantled, and replaced with a new, holistic approach to public safety.

It's the first step in a process to place the proposal on the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say.

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