Mayor: Black Lives Matter won't disrupt TC Marathon, will protest in area near finish line

Black Lives Matter St. Paul will not disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon, but instead will protest in an area provided near for them near the finish line, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Thursday after meeting with the leader of the group. 

The mayor met with Rashad Turner, the leader of Black Lives Matter St. Paul,  to discuss the protest plans after the group threatened to shut down Sunday’s marathon.

According to the Facebook page for Black Lives Matter St. Paul, the protest, dubbed #BlackMarathon, aimed to shut down the race near the finish line, prompting concerns from law enforcement about runners’ safety.

At a press conference following the meeting, Turner said the protest was not intended to harm anyone. The group just wanted to create awareness, he said.

“Our voices were heard,” Turner said. “We've accomplished what we set out to do.”

On Wednesday, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman asked police to "keep all options on the table" to prevent disruption to the Twin Cities Marathon.

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.

Chief Tom Smith said they will not allow the marathon to be disrupted at a news conference on Wednesday.

"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 last Thursday. 

A similar event organized by the group halted light rail service before the Minnesota Vikings home opener, and another was held at the State Fair in response to alleged police brutality. Black Lives Matter St. Paul hasn't yet applied to be recognized as an official chapter of the national Black Lives Matter movement, the Star Tribune reported.

Twin Cities in Motion responded favorably to Coleman's statement, and issued a statement of their own saying "St. Paul city officials advised us to continue the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon as planned, reinforcing their goal is to ensure that runners are able to safely finish the race."

Twin Cities in Motion statement

"Today, St. Paul city officials advised us to continue the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon as planned, reinforcing their goal is to ensure that runners are able to safely finish the race. City officials have said they will not tolerate any actions that compromise the marathon, its runners, spectators, or its success.
With crisp fall weather expected, St. Paul city officials have encouraged runners and spectators to come out and plan to enjoy a great day. We look forward welcoming everyone to the 34th annual Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Weekend and are proud to be the host of this great community tradition."

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.”

Dayton, too

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 questioned 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."