The 2017 Twin Cities Pride Festival was off to a great start this weekend, as over 150,000 people packed downtown Minneapolis to celebrate the Pride parade and all things LGBTQ.
The fun was over before it began, however, after a group of Black Lives Matter activists staged a protest in the middle of the parade, bringing the festivities to a screeching halt.
CBS Minnesota reported that the protesters jumped ahead of the parade’s lead-off vehicle, an unmarked police squad car, where they rallied with a mobile microphone and a speaker. They were reportedly upset over event organizers’ decision to invite police to participate in the parade just days after the acquittal of the former cop who fatally shot Philando Castile.
Nearly a dozen uniformed officers, including one with a K-9 partner, marched in the parade Sunday, June 25, despite initially being excluded from participating in the event, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune. By Friday, organizers had re-invited the officers to march in the festivities.
BLM protesters demanded that the law enforcement officers be removed from the parade and later staged a die-in in the middle of the road, CBS Minnesota reported.
Police are on scene but standing a distance back. pic.twitter.com/Ne5PppmYny
— Susan-Elizabeth (@susanelizabethL) June 25, 2017
Marchers also chanted “No justice, no peace, no pride in police” and held a moment of silence in honor of those killed at the hands of police. Others carried signs that read “Justice for Philando.”
— khaled salem خواطر (@ploom8) June 25, 2017
The parade was halted for nearly an hour, as protesters rallied at each intersection. Fellow marchers simply looked on as the demonstrations unfolded.
Parade watcher L. Warnest, an educator in the same school system where Castile worked before he was killed, said she was “really torn” about the police participation in the parade.
“I feel police do a really good job in the schools, [but] I supported the original decision [to exclude police], and I don’t really appreciate them overturning it,” Warnest told the Star Tribune. “Pride started out because of police brutality. I believe [former officer Jeronimo] Yanez should be in jail. If police are brutalizing people of color in our state, it’s hard to want to celebrate them.”
St. Paul resident Khalilah Armstrong agreed, saying, “They don’t need to march. They can sit down on that one.”
Following about an hour of delays, demonstrators cleared the parade route and the festivities carried on. Dot Beltsler, executive director of the Twin Cities parade, said she respected the group’s right to make their voices heard.
“People are allowed to protest,” Beltsler told the local news station. “It’s great and I think people were really respectful of that and now it’s time for a parade.”
The remainder of the parade carried on without a hitch. No arrests were made.