A group of about 50 protestors showed up at the Minnesota governor’s Summit Avenue residence on Thursday evening May 4 to demand “justice for all stolen lives.” The group was also celebrating the belated birthday of Justin Teigen, who was killed after being pulled over by police in 2009.
The St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) has previously said Teigen died when a garbage truck picked up a dumpster he was hiding in when fleeing from police. Toshira Garraway Allen, who was Teigen’s fiancée, disputes SPPD’s account, saying it is a fabrication meant to cover up his death.
Garraway Allen believes Teigen’s body was thrown in the dumpster after he was beaten to death by SPPD. She says she saw “bite marks” from police dogs on his body and other injuries that were inconsistent with SPPD’s official account of Teigen’s death.
Teigen’s death inspired Garraway Allen to start Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence (FSFAPV), a group consisting of family members whose loved ones have been slain by police. Many members of the group that Garraway Allen had previously helped through hard times were at the governor’s mansion on Thursday evening to show support for Garraway Allen and to remember Teigen.
“My heart is so full of joy right now,” Garraway Allen said. “And it’s not like it’s a whole bunch of people out here, right? But just to see the people who actually showed up to support me and support the rest of our families today really means a whole lot.”
Several members of the Hmong community in St. Paul showed up in solidarity for Teigen after Garraway Allen supported the family of Yia Xiong, who was shot outside of his apartment by SPPD when he emerged from his doorway holding a knife on Feb. 11. Xiong’s niece, Priscilla Xiong, expressed thanks for the support given to her and Xiong’s other relatives, and called the FSFAPV community a “new family.”
“I am grateful for the Hmong community as well, as this is Yia’s family showing up today,” Garraway Allen said. “I think it’s very important that the Black and Brown communities unite.”
Karen Wells, the mother of Amir Locke, says Garraway Allen has been there for her “since day one… Losing my baby, the way that he was stolen, only another person who is dealing with the same type of situation can really truly understand,” Wells said.
“Toshira, she’s out here, she’s been here, doesn’t matter if it’s cold outside, raining outside, sunny outside, Toshira is here and she’s a beautiful person. She had a calling in her life after she lost her fiancé, and she didn’t understand what it was for—and this is what it’s for.”
Garraway Allen says it is important to keep having celebrations for the families, even years after their loved ones’ deaths. “It’s important to be here for the families because it keeps our loved ones alive, it keeps their name and their memory alive,” Garraway Allen said.
“We know that they try to sweep our loved ones under the rug, make it seem like they never existed, make it seem like they’re not human beings, that they didn’t deserve to live. And they left families behind that love them, and I think it’s important to keep their names and their legacy alive.”
Governor Tim Walz was not at the mansion Thursday, as he is temporarily staying at a residence in Sunfish Lake while the mansion undergoes renovations.
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