Protesters Take To The Streets After Not-Guilty Verdict In Philando Castile Case

Jun 17, 2017
Originally published on June 17, 2017 6:26 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to St. Paul, Minn., where protesters shut down a highway last night marching to protest the acquittal of a police officer charged in connection with the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year. Castile's girlfriend streamed the immediate aftermath on Facebook Live. His death sparked massive demonstrations and underscored the national debate over police treatment of young black men. While it's quieter in St. Paul today, NPR's David Schaper reports on how the acquittal has reopened old wounds.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Philando Castile.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Philando Castile.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: After staging a rally at the Minnesota state Capitol Friday night, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of St. Paul, shouting and chanting along the way.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Hands off.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Don't shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Hands off.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Don't shoot.

SCHAPER: The protesters are young and old, black and white, Asian, Latino, Native American, teenagers and young adults marching alongside parents pushing strollers. The one thing they all have in common is outrage over the verdict that clears police officer Jeronimo Yanez of all charges in the shooting death last summer of Philando Castile.

SUSAN MONTGOMERY: It's unbelievable. It's just so unbelievable.

SCHAPER: Forty-three-year-old Susan Montgomery of St. Paul is a single mother marching with her 12-year-old son.

MONTGOMERY: People are shocked. They're sad. They're mad. And they tried to be patient and understanding. And his mother has the right to be upset. And we have a right to also be upset in the community.

CHAUNTYLL ALLEN: It just tells us that our system really isn't for us.

SCHAPER: Chauntyll Allen is a St. Paul public schoolteacher and activist with Black Lives Matter Twin Cities. She says it's important that the protest halted traffic in the area.

ALLEN: It's very important, you know, just 'cause they have to stop in the road 15 or 20 minutes just to hear what our issues are or our problems. Philando is dead. His life is gone.

SCHAPER: Allen says Philando Castile was a good man, a mentor who worked in St. Paul schools, a black man, she says, who did nothing wrong in that tragic traffic stop last summer.

ALLEN: That's a problem when you take somebody like that just because, in your mind, you think that his black skin is a threat to you. That's not OK. And it's time for people to stop seeing us that way.

SCHAPER: Jurors say they didn't see Castile that way as they deliberated back and forth over five days. Juror David (ph) Ploussard of St. Paul says two holdouts wanted to convict initially because they did not believe part of the officer's testimony.

DAVID PLOUSSARD: Because they weren't sure they saw a gun or that Yanez saw a gun.

SCHAPER: But after going over the evidence point by point and examining whether Yanez acted with culpable negligence in shooting Castile, as required by the manslaughter statute, the jury eventually decided to acquit. Yanez is the first police officer ever charged in Minnesota for an on-duty shooting. And many here hoped it would mark a turn in a nationwide tide of police shootings of young black men. But instead, the verdict leaves 16-year-old Hassan Jee-ray in fear.

HASSAN JEE-RAY: Waking up every day, I'm afraid for my life.

SCHAPER: When feeling unsafe, Hassan says he should be able to turn to the police for protection. But this verdict, he says, tells him otherwise. David Schaper, NPR News, St. Paul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.