Black Lives Matter chant ‘disgusting,’ St. Paul police leader says
ST. PAUL -- Law enforcement groups are criticizing a chant during the Black Lives Matter St. Paul march to the Minnesota State Fair, saying it promotes death to officers, something the organizer disputes.
ST. PAUL - Law enforcement groups are criticizing a chant during the Black Lives Matter St. Paul march to the Minnesota State Fair, saying it promotes death to officers, something the organizer disputes.
A 19-second video posted on Twitter shows marchers chanting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” during the Saturday event. There were no arrests or injuries during the march that police estimated drew 300 to 350 people, while organizers put the number at about 500.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, an organization of more than 8,500 officers around the state, called the chant “deplorable and threatening” in a statement Monday.
On Sunday, the St. Paul Police Federation’s president, Dave Titus, posted on the Facebook page of the union representing rank-and-file officers, “(T)he SPPD dedicated great resources to ensure the safety and passage of a BLM march to the Fair - even though that march had no legal permit. … Nonetheless, federation members worked within the rules outlined by city and department management to ensure everyone’s safety and freedom of speech, even though some of that speech was outrageous and disgusting.”
Rashad Turner, the Black Lives Matter St. Paul organizer in charge of the Saturday event, responded Monday: “I feel that it’s disgusting that he works for a department that’s the most deadly in the state of Minnesota and yet he has done nothing to change that, he has never spoke out on that. There’s all this uproar over rhetoric, but the uproar isn’t matched over the facts. … The facts are police officers are getting away with killing unarmed black people.”
Titus, who has been a St. Paul police officer for 22 years, said he believes Saturday’s chant “promotes death to cops.”
Turner said Monday that the chant does not “mean literally ‘fry these guys’ or ‘kill them’ or anything like that. It’s ridiculous that a cop can kill someone, be seen on camera doing that, be charged or indicted with murder, and be able to post bail. … What we are promoting is that if black people who kill police officers are going to fry, then we want police officers to face the same treatment that we face as civilians for killing officers.”
St. Paul police officers have been involved in more fatal shootings of suspects than any other department in Minnesota since 2008, according to a Minnesota Public Radio News analysis of law enforcement data earlier this year.
The MPR News analysis shows that 11 of the 61 fatal shootings by officers in Minnesota over the span were in St. Paul.
Eight of the St. Paul shootings involved people of color. Minneapolis, which has about 100,000 more people than St. Paul, had four fatal shootings by officers in the same time period.
Saturday’s Black Lives Matter St. Paul march started at Hamline Park and went up Snelling Avenue to the state Fairgrounds.
Police closed gates when protesters tried to enter the grounds.
Four of the Fair’s 17 gates were closed for anywhere from two to 30 minutes, said Fair Manager Jerry Hammer. He has said the march wasn’t a major disruption, though the 2 p.m. parade was cancelled that day.
Extra officers were on hand for the march and Police Chief Thomas Smith “is extremely proud of the professionalism and restraint that our officers showed during Saturday’s march,” said Linders, speaking on Smith’s behalf because the chief was unavailable. “They did a great job keeping everyone safe, limiting the disruption and any damage to property.”
More than 188,000 people attended the Fair on Saturday, the third best attendance for an opening Saturday in the Fair’s 160-year history, Hammer said. “We heard from people who said they came because of (the march),” Hammer said. The police union had encouraged people to attend the Fair on Saturday to patronize family-owned vendors who have been supportive of officers.
Outside the main entrance Saturday, Black Lives Matter St. Paul organizers called for more attention to be paid to social and political injustices that minorities face.
Black Lives Matter St. Paul had a list of demands, including for St. Paul police. Turner said they’re asking the police department to request an outside investigation into the death of Marcus Golden, 24, whom St. Paul officers fatally shot in January after they said he nearly struck an officer with his vehicle. A grand jury determined the officers were justified in their actions.
The organization wants officers to carry their own liability insurance and to wear body cameras, Turner said. St. Paul police plan to start a pilot body-camera program next year.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service.