Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) canceled a campaign rally Sunday evening in her home state of Minnesota after protesters demanded she drop out of the presidential race over her past handling of a case that put a Black teenager behind bars for life.
The Minnesota Democrat returned home in preparation for the Super Tuesday elections this week after she placed in a distant sixth in South Carolina’s primary on Saturday. The senator has repeatedly said that she counts on Minnesota, one of over a dozen states to vote on Tuesday, to lean in her favor.
But while Klobuchar’s campaign was getting ready to begin the rally at the St. Louis Park High School gymnasium, dozens of protesters came in calling for her to exit the race over the murky case against Myon Burrell, a Black teen convicted in a 2002 killing and sentenced to life when Klobuchar was Hennepin County’s top prosecutor.
Protesters took the stage chanting, “Klobuchar has got to go,” “Free Myon” and “Black Lives Matter” while holding signs that read “SHAME,” “Who’s [sic] son will be next” and “Conviction without evidence = corruption.” Demonstrators included members of the NAACP’s Minneapolis chapter and Black Lives Matter Twin Cities.
“The campaign offered a meeting with the Senator if they would leave the stage after being on stage for more than an hour,” a campaign spokesperson told CBS News in a statement. “After initially agreeing, they backed out. We are canceling the event.”
Klobuchar only recently began to answer on the campaign trail for her time as a “tough on crime” top prosecutor in Minnesota. During a January Democratic debate, she mentioned 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards who was killed in 2002 by a stray bullet while doing homework at home, and that it was Klobuchar’s office that put the girl’s killer behind bars for life.
The Associated Press investigated the 17-year-old case against Burrell and uncovered inconsistencies that raise questions about whether police manipulated the case against him. The case relied heavily on Burrell’s teen rival, who the AP said gave conflicting accounts when identifying the shooter.
Because there were no other eyewitnesses, police then turned to incarcerated people ― some who have since recanted their statements because they allege police coached or coerced them. Detectives never found a gun, fingerprints or DNA that could point to Burrell, and key evidence ― like a convenience store surveillance tape that Burrell says would have cleared him ― has gone missing or was never obtained, according to the AP.
Now 33 years old, Burrell maintains his innocence and has rejected all plea deals, while his co-defendants have since admitted their part in the killing while saying Burrell was not even there.
Klobuchar said at the time of the investigation’s publication that any new evidence should be immediately reviewed by the court.
Criminal justice reform advocates have criticized Klobuchar’s aggressive prosecution, which included pushing for harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, for helping fuel the mass incarceration of brown and Black people.
The then-prosecutor’s policies reflected the “tough on crime” approach to criminal justice that was often applauded at the time. But as the Democratic Party shifts to the left, the country’s views of justice has also shifted from a punitive position to a more restorative one.
The president of the NAACP’s Minneapolis chapter said after the AP’s investigation that Klobuchar should suspend her campaign.
“Young people, young adults, were given life sentences to rot away in prison,” Leslie Redmond said. “This benefits no one. However, it does benefit politicians that have used the criminal justice system to enhance their political careers, and enough is enough.”