The media frenzy surrounding the proposed Black Lives Matter Saint Paul protest at the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, October 4th has left the Twin Cities and the nation anxious regarding what will ensure on race day. National news outlets originally reported that Black Lives Matter Saint Paul was allegedly planning a protest that would physically block runners from crossing the finish lines in reaction to several recent alleged incidents of police brutality.
The reason why people are confused is because although Black Lives Matter is in fact an organized and national organization that operates under a certain mission and code of conduct, there are several groups operating under the same moniker that are not nationally recognized chapters of the national organization. Through my investigations, I have uncovered three separate entities operating under the name Black Lives Matter: Black Lives Matter St. Paul, Black Lives Matter Saint Paul, and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. The only recognized chapter is Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. Black Lives Saint Paul is the organization that has planned and will be carrying out Sunday's protest at the race.
Black Lives Matter Saint Paul was involved in a collaboration with the other Black Lives Matter groups at the #BlackFair protest, where they and their supporters rallied and spoke out at the Minnesota State Fair against police brutality and systematic injustice. Black Lives Matter Saint Paul was also the group that was responsible for the #BlackRail protest on September 20th in Saint Paul where protesters staged a die-in in response to the alleged beating of a 17 year old teenager, Marcus Abrams, who is autistic.
The internet has become flooded with people in support of and against the originally proposed method of protest. Many residents of the Twin Cities and beyond are very concerned with the safety of the runners participating in the marathon. The proposed plan was to protest at the last leg of the 26.2 mile race. At that point, many runners could be barely holding on, which posed legitimate safety concerns for both runners and activists. Activists in the Twin Cities, as well as nationally, are also torn about the tactic the group proposed to use. Many feel that there could be better ways to bring awareness to their cause. There is also support within the running community for the protest. The opinions vary and the confusion between the factions has added many layers to the story that most have found hard to uncover.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks on April 15, 2013, many people feel that using the marathon is inappropriate, considering the affect this event had on the nation and marathon runners, specifically. I was able to get an interview with Trahern Crews, one of the organizers of the #BlackMarathon protest, along with Rashad Turner, right before he was on his way to meet with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to discuss their protest plans. Below is a transcript of our phone conversation:
Latimer: I feel that with the controversy with the type of protest [that you guys are planning], we are kind of losing the message and I just want to know what is your mission and what exactly do you plan on doing and also how do you feel about the different reactions to what you guys are doing? And what do you hope to accomplish by talking to the Mayor today?
Crews: Our plan is to disrupt the marathon, but we are not going to physically touch anybody or physically stop anybody from getting to the finish line. We might do a die-in. We aren't going to stop anybody. We don't even start until 10 o'clock. So if somebody can get there [the finish line] before 10, they won't even see us.
I think the problem is the groups threatening us and other groups coming and threatening violence. We never threatened violence. It's a peaceful protest. We are protesting the last few incidents [of alleged police brutality]. We are protesting all incidents of police brutality, but specifically the one at the church. If the Mayor could come out and say that it's inappropriate...
Crews: Yes. And it's not just that. His mother was [allegedly] also called a "greedy fat bitch" [by the police officers] at a church event. So if Mayor Chris Coleman can agree with us and come out publicly and say that [these actions are inappropriate]. We want the Department of Justice, if Mayor Coleman agrees, and Governor Dayton to look into the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Police Departments.
Latimer: What made you guys choose this tactic and did you guys think about the connotations after the Boston Marathon attacks that this might not be best tactic?
Crews: That is the only thing that didn't cross our minds. Besides that, I think a lot of the racist comments and things like, 'we're going to kill you if you block me from winning the race' and many of the other racist comments just shows that we still have a far way to go with social justice.
Latimer: And that is one of the reasons why I was torn and wanted to write this article. As a runner, I feel one way. As an activist and supporter of the movement, I feel another way. These issues do need to be addressed and that's why I wanted to talk to you guys about why are you doing this.
Crews: We're not doing this for media attention. We want to bring people and the police to the table to start discussing these issues. So even throughout our past actions [the #blackrail protest where this same group blocked the Metro Greenline during the Vikings Game on September 20th, 2015 in protest of an alleged beating of 17 year old Marcus Abrams who is autistic] we got to sit down with the New City Attorney [Samuel Clark] and the Chief of police [Chief Tom Smith] and got to talk about what laws need to be repealed.
Latimer: There is confusion about the chapters [of the National Black Lives Matter Movement] and what group you represent. What group is putting on this protest?
Crews: We're the Black Lives Matter Saint Paul. The original Black Lives Matter Saint Paul.
In breaking news, the meeting with the Mayor has reported to be a success and according to the Star Tribune, a resolution has been made. The group will be protesting at the event, but will not interfere with any runners during the race. In a statement released by Mayor Coleman's office on Wednesday states that, "These threatened actions pose an unacceptable risk to runners, spectators and protesters themselves". After the meeting, Rashad Turner said, ""Our voices are being listened to".
I will continue to report more as the events unfold.