Falcon Heights, Minn — In reaction to the City of St. Paul decision to charge almost 50 protesters with 3rd degree riot, the ACLU of Minnesota's Executive Director Charles Samuelson issued the following statement:
"These charges appear to be based on the actions of what most parties, including a St. Paul Police spokesperson, agree were outside agitators. The vast majority of the demonstrators were peaceful and spoke out against violent actions by a few.
The non-violent protesters' actions did not warrant this serious charge. A gross misdemeanor charge can mean up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Their actions do not warrant such a serious punishment.
People engaged in non-violent acts of civil disobedience should not have to fear spending up to a year in jail. We would urge the City of St. Paul to drop all charges against the non-violent protesters.
Not only is this a problem for those individuals facing these serious charges, but it sends a chilling message to any individual who wants to engage in non-violent protest in the future.
The community is understandably grieving and upset over the horrific killing of Philando Castile. The First Amendment was created to provide the breathing space for communities to express their reactions immediately in response to what is happening around them. That is especially true when it involves the killing of a member of our community by someone charged with protecting that community."