Converging at Boyd’s Park in St. Paul the morning of the Twin Cities Marathon was a multifarious cast of Black Lives Matter activists, Confederate flag-wielding counter-protesters, and hordes of cops.
Black Lives Matter St. Paul announced early last week that it would disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon by forming a human barrier in front of the finish line. Public backlash, the promise of arrests by St. Paul Police, and a closed-door meeting with Mayor Chris Coleman followed. By Thursday afternoon, BLM had changed its plans to simply demonstrate at the Marathon, without getting in the way of runners.
What occurred Sunday didn’t stray from the negotiated terms. About 100 BLM protesters cut a tense but ultimately peaceful path through stalled traffic toward the Marathon route, where they walked straight through a police barricade onto the grounds. Cops, who’d frantically rerouted traffic ahead of the marchers and blocked off each freeway ramp in their path, maintained a constant barrier between BLM and Marathon spectators.
Protesters staged a die-in, then chanted and sang their way down the final stretch of the Marathon course. They earned a few supportive claps but mostly open stares, ultimately regrouping on Cathedral Hill to shout across the street at passing runners.
Marathoners weren't exactly told about it, but the focus of the #BlackMarathon protest was the recent fatal shooting of 30-year-old Philip Quinn by St. Paul Police. Members of Quinn's family spoke at Boyd's Park prior to the actual protest, where they demanded an explanation for the young man's death at the hands of officers who were supposed to help him. Quinn was schizophrenic and suicidal, a danger only to himself, his aunt Kathy Ficken said. He'd gone to the hospital three times in one day, begging for intervention. Staff just sent him home, she said, where later police would shoot him because, allegedly, he was armed with a screwdriver and didn't respond to their orders.
The Quinn family was joined by Marcus Abrams, the 17-year-old teen forcibly arrested at the Lexington light rail station last month, as well as Monique Cullars-Doty, the aunt of 24-year-old Marcus Golden, who was killed by St. Paul Police in January.