ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman asked police to "keep all options on the table" to prevent disruption to the Twin Cities Marathon after Black Lives Matter protesters have threatened to shut it down on Sunday.
Black Lives Matter halted light rail service before the Minnesota Vikings home opener, and announced plans for a similar protest dubbed #BlackMarathon last week, which aims to shut down the Oct. 4 race, according to the Facebook page for Black Lives Matter St. Paul.
In a news release sent on Wednesday, Coleman praised police for "balancing the rights of protesters to be heard and the public to be safe" in light of recent action organized by the group, but in this case, he's asking Chief Smith to "keep all options on the table" to prevent disruption during the race. He also expressed his desire to meet with Black Lives Matter St. Paul leaders ahead of the demonstration.
In response to the mayor's statement, Chief Tom Smith said they will not allow the marathon to be disrupted.
"Runners shall finish the race," Smith said. "No groups shall disrupt or there will be consequences."
The group says they are protesting police brutality, particularly the arrest of 15-year-old Tyree Tucker in a park a few weeks ago and the officer-involved shooting of Philip Quinn in St. Paul on Thursday.
Protestors will meet in Boyd Park in St. Paul at 10 a.m., the group's Facebook page indicates. The marathon starts at 8 a.m. Last year's winner finished in just over 2 hours and 13 minutes.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he is willing to meet with Black Lives Matter leaders about the protest, but fears it would be counterproductive.
The governor said he believes in much of what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, but he questions what it stands for.
"I acknowledge that there's discrimination," Gov. Dayton said. "I acknowledge that there's injustice, that there's inequality. But if that's the basis for taking disruptive actions someone could take disruptive actions every day and every night for the foreseeable future."
Full statement from Mayor Coleman
“Over the last several months, Black Lives Matter has conducted numerous demonstrations in the City of Saint Paul designed to disrupt traffic, deter people from getting to the State Fair and shut down the Green Line. While these events have likely inconvenienced some people, the protests have not led to any significant issues, no serious injuries and no arrests. The Saint Paul Police Department has done an exceptional job of balancing the rights of protesters to be heard and the public to be safe.
Now leaders of Black Lives Matter in Saint Paul have stated their intent to ‘shut down the Twin Cities Marathon.’ While we are no less committed to the right to peacefully protest, these threatened actions pose an unacceptable risk to runners, spectators and protesters themselves. To paraphrase an old adage, the right of anyone to protest ends at another's nose, or, in this case, someone else's feet. Therefore, I have asked Chief Smith to keep all options on the table to prevent disruption of the race or prevent runners from finishing the marathon.
I have also reached out to Saint Paul leaders of Black Lives Matter and hope to meet with them prior to Sunday. It is my desire to understand more fully what specific steps they are asking the City of Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Police Department to take to address their concerns. Recent incidents cited by the group’s leadership are currently under review. I am confident Chief Smith will address these matters appropriately. And I also believe it is important for leaders of Black Lives Matter to understand the extraordinary efforts Chief Smith and the department have taken to address issues of racial equity.
Saint Paul has a long history of resolving disputes peacefully and successfully, including a long history of working directly with community leaders to take corrective action in City and police practices. We remain committed to doing so.”
One runner's open letter to BLM
A Facebook post from runner Tina Hauser has received an overwhelming response. Hauser wants #BlackMarathon organizers to know "your choice to disrupt the marathon directly contradicts the very things you say you seek," and that "we probably have more in common than you may think." The posts, which has more than 6,000 likes, reads as follows:
Dear Black Lives Matter - I have refrained from commenting up until now, as any dissent is too quickly turned back as being racist or unsympathetic to your cause. While that could not be further from the truth, the reality is that your choice to disrupt the marathon directly contradicts the very things you say you seek. I understand you are planning to block our finish line next weekend. In fact, your leadership has said "They are putting a marathon over the importance of someone losing their lives.
On Sunday, people are going to see runners chasing dreams, doing what seems impossible, running for charities, running FOR LIFE. It is the culmination of months of hard work and dedication, often in the memory of those who are fighting for their lives or who have lost their lives. Runners are an incredibly diverse community of everyday folks who do extraordinary things; witness a marathon finish line and you will witness the human spirit in it's most amazing form.
If you succeed in blocking our finish line, you are doing more than stopping human beings from crossing a rubber timing mat. You are telling me that you do not value good citizens setting positive examples of perseverance and triumph. Running has saved lives in so many ways and has brought people and communities together by their shared passion for what it gives back - to them AND to others.
Instead, why don't you show up and support us, get to know us, and let us get to know you? We can bond over chocolate milk and bananas at the finish line. You'll discover that we probably have more in common than you may think.