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Demonstrators rally Friday at the state capitol in St Paul, Minn. after the not guilty verdict in the Yanez trial. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

Protests Erupt After Officer Cleared in Fatal Shooting of Philando Castile

Officer's acquittal "does not negate the fact that Philando Castile's tragic death is part of a disturbing national pattern of officers using excessive force against people of color," says Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota

Andrea Germanos

Thousands of protesters hit the streets of St. Paul, Minn. Friday night after a jury cleared Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

After a peaceful march of roughly 2,000 people near the state capitol, with some carrying signs reading "Justice not served for Philando," several hundred people then headed to Interstate 94 where they blocked traffic and faced off with law enforcement. The Minnesota State Patrol states that 18 people were arrested for failing to comply with the dispersal order.

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press adds: "At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, a few dozen protesters had gathered in front of the Governor's Residence, the site of a nearly three-week encampment after Castile's death last summer."

As CNN writes, "The protests were expected."

Valerie Castile, Philando's mother, speaking outside the Ramsey County Courthouse after a not guilty verdict was reached. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)
Yanez faced manslaughter charges over the July 2016 deadly shooting of Castile, who was black, at a traffic stop in suburban Falcon Heights. Castile's girlfirend, Diamond Reynolds, was in the car at the time and began live-streaming the event in the moments after the shots were fired. Her 4-year-old daughter was also in the car at the time.

A jury acquitted Yanez Friday after five days of deliberation.

According to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the "verdict re-opens old wounds, on top of the scars from past injustices that make so many Black Americans feel that their lives don't matter."

Castile's mother, Valerie, for her part, said following the court decision: "People have died for us to have these rights and now we're devolving. We're going back down to 1969. Damn. What is it going to take? I'm mad as hell right now, yes, I am," she said.

Protests in the wake of the shooting put another spotlight on the systemic violence faced by black men and women at the hands of police, and watchdog and human rights groups reacted to the verdict by urging an overhaul to police standards for the use of lethal force.

"Unless our lawmakers get serious about reforming laws that govern lethal force by police, justice will continue to elude grieving families," said Amnesty International USA researcher Justin Mazzola. "International standards for the use of lethal force are simple and clear: it must only be an absolute last resort in the face of imminent death or serious injury. Not one U.S. state complies with this simple standard."

"It is unacceptable that communities must fear those that are sworn to protect them. And it is disgraceful that the law will allow the simple act of reaching for your identification when asked by police could be your last. We need reform now before more lives are lost with impunity," he continued.

Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, also spoke to the need for new standards to be put in place—and for accountability.

"The jury's decision to acquit Officer Yanez does not negate the fact that Philando Castile's tragic death is part of a disturbing national pattern of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Philando Castile was one of 1,092 individuals killed by the police in 2016. Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable. While many officers carry out their jobs with respect for the communities they serve, we must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement," Nelson said.

"To build trust," she added, "we need a democratic system of policing where our communities have an equal say in the way their neighborhoods are policed. Collaboration, transparency, and communication between police and communities around the shared goals of equality, fairness, and public safety is the path forward."


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