Thousands of people gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota, Friday evening to protest a verdict that found a Minnesota police officer not guilty on all counts in his deadly shooting of a black man during a traffic stop in 2016, NPR reports.
Demonstrators gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol holding signs that included the phrases “black lives matter,” and “no justice, no peace,” and hundreds marched toward the nearby Cathedral of Saint Paul.
Some of the protesters that the Minnesota State Patrol estimated to be about 500 people made their way onto Interstate 94 and blocked traffic for more than an hour. Shortly before 1 a.m. Central time, the State Patrol tweeted that they were arresting protesters “who failed to leave the roadway”. Police had mostly cleared protesters from the highway after midnight, according to Associated Press, and protests were largely peaceful.
After five days of deliberations, the jury found Officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty of all counts in the July 2016 shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul.
“The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all. My son loved this city and this city killed my son and the murderer gets away… I’m mad as hell right now”, Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, told reporters after the verdict.
Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, was driving with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter when they were pulled over by St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
“Seventy-four seconds after Yanez activated his squad lights, he fired the last of seven shots into the car”, Minnesota Public Radio’s Matt Sepic reported.
Yanez was charged last November with one count of felony second-degree manslaughter in Castile’s death. He also faced two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon over allegedly endangering Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her daughter. He pleaded not guilty.
The City of St. Anthony said after the verdict that Yanez “will not return to active duty”. In a statement, the city said that it “has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city”.
The shooting last July sparked protests and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton described the incident and its aftermath as “absolutely appalling at all levels”.
Castile was said to know the names of all 500 students he worked with, and after the verdict St. Paul Public Schools said the verdict “may bring strong emotions” for those who knew “Mr. Phil”, whom they describe as a “beloved SPPS employee”.