ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — State and local officials prepared for a planned Black Lives Matter protest at the finish line of Minnesota's largest marathon on Sunday, with St. Paul's mayor saying the city will do whatever's needed to ensure the race goes smoothly.
The plan by the St. Paul chapter to demonstrate at the Twin Cities Marathon sparked an intense divide about the group's tactics and raised fears among some of the estimated 11,000 runners that, after months of training, they'd be blocked from crossing the finish line. The race is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
Group organizer Rashad Turner said protesters wouldn't block runners but would "become the finish line" with signs and chants, calling attention to incidents involving St. Paul police and people of color.
"They will have to see our signs, they will have to hear our voices," Turner said. "We shouldn't have to protest or disrupt to get justice."
The same group drew widespread scorn after a protest outside Minnesota's state fair this summer, when some marchers were captured chanting to fry police "like bacon."
Despite Turner's insistence that protesters wouldn't shut down the race, government officials were preparing for whatever might occur.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman issued a statement Wednesday saying he's instructed local police to "keep all options on the table" to ensure the marathon goes smoothly. St. Paul police Chief Thomas Smith warned of consequences, including arrests, for anyone who disrupts the race.
Gov. Mark Dayton asked organizers to meet with him to discuss their concerns rather than holding a protest he said would "destroy the race for everyone."
Turner said the group would welcome a meeting with the Democratic governor to find ways to keep the event safe. They already have a meeting scheduled with Coleman, he said.