Katie G. Nelson
Public Radio International
“Grief and loss” is what demonstrators say they’re feeling after the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, Wednesday evening.
The aftermath of the shooting was caught on video by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who said she and her boyfriend had been pulled over for a broken taillight.
The video features Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor slumped in the passenger seat, blood covering his white shirt. The unidentified officer continues to point his gun at Reynolds while a young child sits in the backseat of the car.
“They killed my boyfriend,” Reynolds told the camera.
The video quickly became a rallying call and hundreds of demonstrators headed to the Minnesota governor’s mansion to express their outrage and grief over the shooting.
Here are some of the voices from Thursday’s demonstration.
“This morning, one of the former kindergarten teachers at Chelsea Heights Elementary said that [Castile] had worked there for more than seven years,” said Jess Banks, a racial equity worker in St. Paul. “My sons are 14 and 10, so that would’ve overlapped with at the same time he was there
“I don’t think there is activism without grief. I think anger has a place,” she said. “It’s well past time our country deals with our racist past and present.”
“I’m just going to pray for justice over North Minneapolis,” said Hannah Daniels, 11, before bowing her head in front of the crowd.
North Minneapolis is a predominantly African American community a few miles from where Castile was shot.
Tears streaming down her face, Daniels prayed for the families “who lost their loved ones” and for the children “who have become fatherless because their fathers have been killed.”
“My name is Alexander Clark and I am the cousin of Jamar Clark.”
Alexander’s cousin Jamar Clark, 24, was shot and killed by Minneapolis police last November. No charges were filed against the two officers involved in the shooting.
“What they did to that man, what they did to Philandro Castile, that s*** was injustice,” Clark yelled to the crowd of demonstrators. “Ya’ll just don’t understand. I just sat down and watched the same people kill my g*****n cousin,” he said.
Growing visibly upset, Alexander added, “What makes black people less equal than any other ethnic background in this world? I am just as equal as any of you are. We will not continue to be robbed of our 14th amendment because we are not 3/5ths of a human being.”
“I’m down here because we are tired of seeing black men murdered by these people who have badges,” said Cypress Kenney outside the Minnesota governor's mansion. “I’m down here because I have a black boyfriend, because my mother is black, because so much of my family is black, because I am black.”
Watching the growing crowd of demonstrators, Kenney said, “This is a peaceful event but I don’t know that I feel very peaceful any more. I’m trying to find a way — if there is one— for peace. But if there isn’t one, then you know, by any means necessary.”
“I go to spots in communities that are affected by police brutality ... and I see what people have to say,” said Keno Evol, a poet and community educator in Minneapolis.
Evol asked the community to use Post-it notes and Sharpie markers to respond to the question “instead of Police, we need …”. The responses were then posted on a black board.
Responses ranged from children requesting karate classes in North Minneapolis to “folks who want more counselors in schools,” he said. “I get everything.”
“This really hit home. I went to school with Philandro — we went to high school together,” said Devina Moore, while handing out bottles of cold water to the crowd.
“We need to unite and hit the system where it hurts. Back when they did the boycott on the buses, it took a long time and people were frustrated. However, they got change; they got results,” she said.
“I don’t know what’s next, but if it’s as simple as bringing water down here, then I’ll bring water everyday if I have to,” Moore added.