On a seemingly appropriate cloudy Friday afternoon, just minutes before sprinkles of rain fell, many reporters, community members and what seemed like the entire nation, waited outside the Ramsey County Courthouse in downtown St. Paul for the verdict in the case against former Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
Around 2:35 pm on June 16, an individual came out of the courthouse and reported to the crowd, including this reporter, that Yanez, who had been charged with manslaughter and two counts of endangerment by intentionally shooting a firearm, was found not guilty on all counts.
Everyone outside the courthouse seemed stunned, and there were numerous gasps as the crowd awaited the press conference. The Castile family came out of the courtroom expressing anger and tears as they walked across the courtyard to their cars before the press conference.
During the press conference that followed the verdict, Judge Glenda Hatchett, who will represent Castile family in civil matters, expressed gratitude to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi for charging Yanez, the first on-duty police officer to be charged with manslaughter in the state of Minnesota. Hatchett did, however, express disappointment in the verdict, describing the case as a “turning marking point in the nation.”
“This time, we had a young man, with no criminal record, a 13-year employee of the St. Paul Public School System, who never missed work, and knew all 500 of his students by name,” Hatchett said. “We didn’t have a man fleeing from the scene, or fighting the police; he was fully compliant as his mother taught him… If Philando can die under these circumstances, let’s be clear, each and every one of you can die under these same circumstances.”
Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando, expressed a similar sentiment, stating that there is a systemic problem of racism in Minnesota, but she had hopes that her family would receive justice in this case. “Nevertheless, it always seems to fail us,” she said. “The system continues to fail Black people!”
Valerie Castile also expressed to the crowd her son’s hometown pride. “My son loved this state! He had one tattoo and it was of the state of Minnesota with TC on it for Twin Cities. My son loved this city and this city killed my son! Thank you, Minnesota!”
The events that followed included a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol that evening, followed by protesters marching through the streets of St. Paul, effectively shutting down the Green Line on University Avenue, and later I-94 for close to three hours. The I-94 shutdown resulted in 18 arrests.
(See scenes from the July 16 rally at the MN State Capitol, march and I-94 shutdown below)
Protests continued for a second day on Saturday afternoon, when more than 200 demonstrators met for a rally and march at Loring Park near downtown Minneapolis. The last minute march was held by Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds.
“I don’t know about you all, but it was difficult for me to sleep last night,” said Levy-Pounds. “It is time for things to change; this has to be a wake-up call. It can no longer be business as usual in the state of Minnesota.”
“I had some expectations of the verdict for justice,” said activist Mel Reeves at the rally. “We have to understand, the people who make these decisions are not like us. You wouldn’t set up a system where somebody would kill somebody; and if they did, you would put them on trial and they would go to jail. A horrible decision has come down, and they tell us to respect the law — I don’t respect anything that doesn’t respect me.”
(See Mel Reeves speak to protesters below)
Reeves called for everyone to continue to rally regardless of race. “The violence of the system keeps killing us. They’re not just killing Black folks, their killing White folks too,” he said.
He also told the crowd that, although there was no justice in this case, protests do make a difference. He reminded those present that defense attorney Earl Gray told the media that his client should have never been tried and that the only reason charges were brought against Yanez was because of the protests. Reeves encouraged the protesters to take that to heart and to continue the fight.
While the protest was stopped at the Minneapolis Police Precinct building on Fourth Avenue, Levy-Pounds and the crowd came across six police officers on bikes. She questioned why the officers’ presence was needed and encouraged the officers to report bad cops to help restore faith in the community.
“If you call yourself a good cop, but you see one of your colleagues beating somebody, or disrespecting them, report them,” said Levy-Pounds to cheers from the crowd. “That’s what a good cop does. The more of you guys that speak out from that blue thin line, the more you will gain trust from the public.”
(See Nekima Levy-Pounds address police below)
A “Father’s Day for Philando” rally also took place on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 18 in St. Paul (see photo gallery below), with more planned in the coming days. In addition to protests, community conversations have been taking place at various community centers in the Twin Cities. The next session is scheduled Tuesday, June 20 at 5 pm at Wilder Foundation in St. Paul.
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below see photos from the June 18 “Father’s Day for Philando” rally by Chris Juhn.
Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com